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. 

          

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The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga: Guest post by Manmohan Singh

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(image: https://www.gaia.com/series/yoga-every-day)

Mental illness is like any other illness in the body. With Yoga, it can be treated and helped to heal. Yoga encourages mental fitness and healing of the mind.

Living in a modernised world, many of us still have conformist ideologies. Mental illness  is misinterpreted. It is often a deep-rooted issue, which, if not helped, can become life-threatening. Day-to-day stresses and heartbreak can lead to depression and other mental illness. If the condition becomes severe, it can lead to self-destructive tendencies, including self harm.

There are many ways (meditation, therapies, etc.) to prevent and help mental illness, with yoga being one of the most natural and safe options. According to many studies, it is confirmed that Yoga has the ability to relieve stress and anxiety and reduce mild depression and other mental illnesses.

So, let’s see the amazing mental health benefits of Yoga:

 

Calms The Nervous System

Yoga has the power to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety levels. It makes you enter into a more relaxed state, and gradually, you move from flight or fight-to rest and digest mode (or move from the sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic nervous system). Yoga reduces stress, anxiety, depression, treats insomnia, and other kinds of health issues.

Makes You Self-Aware

Yoga practice helps to ignite the sense of Self. Through yoga, you know yourself better and form a deeper connection from within. Yoga helps build self-trust, increases self-awareness that helps in making healthier choices- like eating healthier, living the right lifestyle. You learn to accept yourself, develop stronger willpower, bring your consciousness back to the present, feel more confident, and gradually realise your self-worth.

Helps Mend  Relationships

Emotions and feelings contribute a lot towards ones mental health. A traumatising incident, heartbreak, death of loved ones, and many other day-to-day relationship struggles, can affect our mind and lead to mental illness.

Yoga ignites awareness and not only helps us improve our relationship with the Self but with others as well. When you form a positive relationship with the Self, you tend to deal with others in the same manner. A healthy relationship helps to maintain the overall mental well-being as well.

Reduces Inflammation Related To Genes

According to a study, it is proven that 15 minutes of yoga practice or relaxation techniques switches off the genes that are responsive to stress and inflammation. With the modern world, stress is something that is often found. This stress leads to various mental health conditions. Our body is designed in a manner that it has the ability to reduce stress and this mechanism is called the ‘relaxation response’. With yoga relaxation techniques, you can easily trigger the stress reduction ability.

Yoga practice is the best way to fire your body’s built-in mechanism that helps mental relaxation. 15-20 minutes of yoga practice triggers the biochemical changes in the brain cells and protects from stress and anxiety.

Yoga Boosts GABA Level

Our brain is filled with receptors and GABA or GABA receptors or gamma-aminobutyric acid is linked with anxiety and mood disorders. When the brain drops the GABA activity, the mood of a person becomes lower and they start feeling more anxious.  

With the help of yoga practice, you can boost the GABA level. Practice yoga for an hour daily to get positive results.

Reduces The Effect Of Traumatic Incidents

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a serious issue that people face after going through a traumatising or negative situation, shocking or terrifying experiences. People in this condition frequently experience flashbacks and nightmares of the situation they have had come across. With yoga, a person can help himself come out from the situation and help the mind.

Improves Concentration And Boosts Memory

Sometimes, our brain finds it difficult to do or concentrate on the day-to-day tasks. Yoga practice has proven effective in boosting memory and improving concentration and also clears the mind and calms the senses.

Prevents Mental Health Disorders At Every Age

A mental health condition can occur at any age depending on the situation you are in or what you’re going through. According to a study, people of age group 18-35 are at high risk of mental illness and have periods of severe stress.

These issues can also occur during adolescence, due to various reasons, including genetics but also envrionmental- family disputes, fights, peer pressure, body shaming, academics etc. Teenagers also go through many physical, mental and emotional changes.

Yoga practice helps elevate the mood, reduce stress and anxiety, prevent depression, control anger, and ignites mindfulness.

People as they get older can also face these mental health issues due to loneliness, change of the environment, alcohol abuse, dementia, loss of loved one, long-term illness, physical disability, poor diet, etc., Yoga can be beneficial to health.

Yoga Asanas To Practice For Mental Health- Balasana, Viparita Karani Asana, Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana, and Shavasana. Also practice Pranayama like: Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom and Bhramari.

It is rightly said that a healthy mind breeds a healthy body, and vice-versa. It is important to have good, positive mental health for complete fitness and healthy, happy living.

Practising yoga promotes better health, try it today!

 

 

Author Bio: Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveller in India. He provides Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading the books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas.

Website: https://www.rishikulyogshala.org/

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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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.

 

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

A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

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(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

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.

Extract from my Metro article on Homelessness and Mental health issues

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(image: concordhomeless.org)

This is an extract from a Metro.co.uk article that our founder Eleanor wrote and researched on rough sleeping, homelessness and mental health issues. To read the full article click here: http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/10/homelessness-and-mental-health-whats-being-done-to-help-7421391/

The ‘Beast from the East’ put homelessness under the spotlight in February and March as rough sleepers faced freezing conditions. But a more persistent problem among homeless people, which is little talked about, is the prevalence of mental health issues. As someone with bipolar disorder, who has never been homeless, I wanted to investigate what support there is out there for homeless people with mental health conditions.

Anyone can be affected by homelessness, regardless of age, race or sex. Among homeless people, 44% have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, according to Homeless Link. Homeless link points out that homelessness is a stressful, lonely, traumatic experience, which has a major impact on mental health.

In summarising some of its research into homelessness and mental health, Crisis says: ‘Serious mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, bipolar and post traumatic stress disorder are more common among homeless people. ‘Suicide rates are nine times higher, demonstrating the very real need of effective support’

Homeless people with mental health issues, particularly rough sleepers, often have less access to mental health professionals due to their lack of address or their complex needs. Being homeless is extremely overwhelming. Treatment may be the last thing on the mind of a homeless person with a mental health condition when they are focused on finding a way to get food and a place to sleep. The prevalence of drug and alcohol addictions is an added problem.

According to Crisis: ‘Homeless people are more vulnerable to alcohol and drug use. ‘Multiple diagnosis of substance and mental health issues can be a barrier. Rates of alcohol and drug use are four times higher than in the general population.’

Understandably, addiction can get worse when someone is homeless, due to the stress. St Mungo’s is charity that has conducted research into this area and affected change in legislation. Its investigation ‘Stop the Scandal’, looks at mental health and rough sleeping. The charity called for a national strategy to end rough sleeping and changes to the law.

Following St Mungo’s campaign, in 2017 the government backed the Homelessness Reduction Act. This legislation, which came into force on 3 April, is designed to prevent people becoming homeless and to give councils more power to tackle the issue. The government also committed to halve rough sleeping by 2022.

St Mungo’s is leading the way on this. It said: ‘Our experience is that homeless people are treated poorly and often labelled and judged. ‘People see drink or drugs behind rough sleeping, but rarely think about mental health. ‘Mental ill-health can affect anyone, but people sleeping rough face adverse weather conditions, fear and isolation’.

 

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/10/homelessness-and-mental-health-whats-being-done-to-help-7421391/?ito=cbshare

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What happens during a Manic episode: Bipolar One Disorder Tales by founder Eleanor

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When most people think of bipolar disorder, they may think of the two opposing poles that make up the illness. High and low. Manic and depressed. Many also believe that all people with bipolar flit between these moods constantly and that the illness is severe or alike in everyone who has it. This is not the case.

There are two types of bipolar disorder. I have the first one – Bipolar affective One disorder, which means that I have serious manic episodes which include psychosis (loss of touch with reality). This has happened to me twice in my life and both times I have needed hospitalisation. Bipolar two is characterised by lesser manic episodes (hypomania) and more mixed states.

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(image: https://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/mood-swings.htm)

Being Bipolar One is very challenging. When I get ill, I get really really sick. Loss of insight, loss of reality, needing anti psychotic medicines now- ill. Ill to the point of being sectioned under the mental health act due to lack judgement and insight. Believing that my family are out to get me and people are going to harm me – ill.  Really unwell.

When one of these serious manic episodes strikes for me, my thoughts begin racing and I can’t concentrate. I don’t sleep, I am more creative in the short term but a gibbering wreck in the long term. I start believing I can do things that I can’t rationally. I am super vulnerable and I speak much faster. I may not make much sense and when the delusions begin, I start believing I am going to be harmed.

Luckily, these episodes are kept at bay by a host of excellent medications including Lithium and Quetaipine. I also take anti depressants to keep the low periods at bay in my life.

Full blown psychosis and mania for me are very rare but they do happen. In 10 years, from 2004-2014 I did not have a hospitalisation. I was depressed and anxious but I was able to recover at home.

I had no hypomanic or manic episodes for a decade! No psychosis. One therapist even questioned my diagnosis, before my 2014 hospitalisation.

Mania for me means danger. That danger means I am more vulnerable. I have to be very careful who I surround myself with during those times. I don’t drink alcohol to excess or take drugs, but some with this kind of mania do. Or they spend lots of money or engage in risk taking behaviours such as sexual activity.

I have learnt that as long as I take my medication regularly, get enough sleep, eat well (and don’t engage in long haul travel) that I can keep my symptoms at bay. If my medicines work! (this is always a fear.. that they could stop working).

Mania for me strikes out of the blue sometimes. I also have to be careful that my mood stabiliser medicine is holding me- as with high doses of anti depressants, mania can be triggered without it.

When in psychosis in hospital I have thought the following untrue delusions

– I am being harmed by my family
– There are CCTV cameras watching and filming me in my bedroom/ hospital room
– I have been abused in some way (my mind convinces itself)
– I am being held by a criminal gang (in hospital)

These delusions have always disappeared over time, with excellent care from psychiatrists and psychologists, anti psychotic medicine and good support from family.

I don’t get these when well, and rarely have to go through them. I am learning to accept that my brain chemistry is not the same as other people and having bipolar, a chronic illness, is not my fault. I just do the best I can to manage symptoms and keep myself as well as possible.
If you want to share your story of mania and bipolar, please do write below.

There is hope and recovery after mania. Thank you to all on the Facebook group who voted for this one.  

Love, Eleanor x