Category Archives: ptsd

9 Proven Ways to Help Build Mindfulness and Meditation: Guest post by Jay Pignatiello

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This article is about ways to build Mindfulness for a happy and healthier life, by Jay Pigantiello.

At the age of 25, I began to feel the inevitable tides of change turn as they do, dimming the spark of youth I had grown quite accustomed to and cloaked myself with. I had hardly thought of a future to this point, but the reality finally hit me; the truth of which became a monster of sorts, leading me into a dark period of depression that followed. It wasn’t that I lacked confidence as much as it was simply that I hadn’t the slightest clue of what I wished to do for the rest of my life. The “rest of my life,” seemed daunting. I’m not sure to this day that there’s anything I would like to do for the “rest of my life.” But, through the suggestion of a friend turned mentor, I began to accept these feelings rather than trying to flee from them.

Meditation is an incredible tool. I was under the delusion that in order to be more mindful about things, I had to sit like a guru for two hours a day and eat nothing but kale and lentils. This couldn’t have been further from the truth, as it was suggested to start slow in the beginning. Each morning, for five minutes I would sit up in my bed and allow myself to be present. The coldness of the other pillow, the silky sensation of my sheets, and the warmth of the sunshine creeping over the hills began to be my anchors. Instead of fretting over what I needed to do that day, I allowed myself to be present upon waking. Most people are in such a rush that in the haze of their haste they actually make more mistakes and are less productive than if they were to take a few minutes to let their minds stay still.

Here are 9 proven and effective ways to help yourself become more mindful, and hopefully lead to a meditation practice:

 

  • Allow yourself to feel the feelings. It’s amazing how easily your mind can switch from negative thinking to more positive thinking when you stop fighting what you’re feeling. Humans are supposed to feel other emotions than happy or contentment. Feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling depressed are actually positive experiences because they allow an insight into what needs to be changed.

 

  • Listen to your negative thoughts, and try to translate them. Many times when I’m depressed, I’ll start to see through a lens of darkness over everything in my reality, when the truth is that I’m unhappy because she didn’t text me back, or he didn’t tell me that I did a good job at work today. If I can translate these feelings of sadness into thoughts, I can allow them to pass or I can begin to make the proper changes that are necessary for me to grow.

 

  • Practice makes perfect. For me, there are times where I’ll pick up my guitar after having not played for a while and immediately dismiss myself as awful if I’m not as sharp as I once was. I forget how many hours went into practicing in order for me to reach a point where I was confident in my abilities. When I carry this mindset into other areas of my life, it allows me to accept where I’m at in my skillset and encourages me to practice a little harder. It also allows me to see my strengths and my weaknesses.

 

  • Strengths and weaknesses. This might not help me to become more mindful, but it’s made me a more confident person. In recovery from addiction, I’ve always been careful not to mention it to employers because I’ve thought of it as a weakness. The same could be said for my depression or anything else I suffer from. It wasn’t until I embraced the struggles I had gone through as a strength that I truly started to flourish in all areas of my life. In fact, most people didn’t see it as a weakness, and I’ve gotten several jobs simply because I’m reliable and trustworthy.

 

  • Pick one positive thing you experienced in your day and take time to appreciate it. Whether it’s the fact that your boss bought you coffee, or someone smiled at you, find one moment throughout the day and choose to be present for it. Gratitude is a powerful anti-depressant, and also helps to build mindfulness.

 

  • Pick one negative or uncomfortable experience in your day and take time to appreciate it. There’s a saying that goes something like, “you’ll never know a good day until you’ve had a bad one.” Negative experiences don’t need to define your entire day, but allowing yourself to feel it and be present without resistance can help you to see how many positive experiences there actually are. Discomfort is a catalyst for confidence.

 

  • Choose a mantra. Mantras can be powerful anchors, helping us to meditate while not traditionally meditating. Sometimes when I’m waiting in line I like to recite, “go with the flow,” which is from a song I like, as well as an appropriate mantra for me to live by. Often times I can be controlling, and so by reciting these words I remind myself that I’m not the most important person in the room, and everyone else had to wait in the same line. Your mantra can be whatever you choose, so find one that works for you.

 

  • Sit with your eyes closed. Sitting with your eyes closed in a more traditional form can truly help you to be more present throughout the rest of your day. Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool to help us to achieve mindfulness, as well as spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical growth. When we allow ourselves to sit without judgement of our thoughts, letting them come and go freely without narrating the story of each, we’re allowing our minds to become tranquil; which in today’s day and age of computers and billboard ads, is a must.

 

  • There’s only one Buddha. I like this saying, because I’m sometimes harsh on myself if I can’t sit for as long as I hoped for. Sitting for five minutes, and gradually building yourself up to sit for longer can help you to form a regular practice. There’s only one Buddha, and so there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, nor is there a right or wrong amount of time to meditate for. Be gentle on yourself, and acknowledge each day when you meditate that you’re taking time to do something positive and helpful for yourself.

 

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, as well as recovering from various addictions. Meditation and mindfulness helped me to change my perspective, which in turn actually helped me to become a more hopeful and positive person. These 9 steps are proven to help you not only become more mindful, but to feel better about yourself and the world around you. We’re all in this life together, and I choose to be a more positive person for the world around me.

 

Jay is a writer and works with Crown View Co-Occurring Institute, a rehab for depression and other co-occurring disorders. He enjoys walking his two dogs, playing music, and being a figure in the recovery community in his freetime.

The 365 Challenge: Raising Awareness of PTSD By David Baum with Mind (Guest Post)

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What is The 365 Challenge?  www.the365challenge.org.uk

The 365 Challenge was created by David Baum, a 58 year old business man from Bushey, Hertfordshire. It evolved out of the 22 x 22 x 22 challenge, which started in the US about a year ago, to recognise that 22 ex-service men and women commit suicide every day due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

David worked out that this equated to 8030 ex-service personnel, this however did not take into consideration the thousands of men, women and children who are diagnosed every year with PTSD. So he decided to extend the Challenge from 22 days to 365 days.

What makes The Challenge so important?

Many of the thousands of men, women and children diagnosed with PTSD go untreated. So much so that in addition to the 22 ex-service personnel who commit suicide every day, in the UK a further 473 service personnel are discharged every year through PTSD. However, this doesn’t include life events such as cancer, murder, bullying or other attacks that can bring on PTSD. Unfortunately, the list goes on.

David’s own story is typical of a large number of sufferers own story:
When I was at school I was bullied mercilessly, it could have been because I was Jewish or not very tall or slightly chubby or wore glasses or that I wasn’t brilliant at football. Unfortunately, bullies never tell you why they are physically attacking you, other than they think it is funny or even a bit of banter. When I left school, I thought I would move on, but whenever I saw one of the bullies, I would come out in a cold sweat and want to walk the other way. I then had a number of car smashes, a couple which were my fault, the others I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I tried to get on with my life, however, every time I heard the sound of a car smash or saw a fight I would break out into a cold sweat.

It was only after my wife Mel was diagnosed with Breast Cancer 20 years ago – fortunately she is in remission – I realised that I had to tackle the demons that were haunting me. Through counselling I came to realise that the bullying wasn’t my fault and accidents happens. Through a number of sessions, I was able to shake myself free of the traumas of my younger self. However, many are not so lucky. This is the reason why I created the 365 Challenge, and that I ask that people to like and share my efforts, to draw attention to the fact that you don’t have to be a member of the armed forces, a member of the Police or emergency services to develop PTSD, ANYONE CAN.”

Once David decided to create The 365 Challenge he approached MIND and The Gym Group who readily agreed to back the 365 Challenge.

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So how does The 365 Challenge work?
The Challenge is very simple and split in to 4 parts:

– Part 1 is from day 1 to 99 when the participant has to perform 22 reps of an exercise every day, preferably a different one as this adds to the challenge.
– Day 100 to 199 the number of reps increases to 30.
– Day 200 to 299 it’s 40 reps a day.
– For the final 65 days it’s 50 reps.

Unlike other charity challenges or dares, nobody is asked to make any donations or nominate anyone else. The person undertaking the Challenge is asked to commit to spending 1 to 2 minutes a day for 365 days film the session and post films on social media asking their connections to ‘like’ and ‘share’ – the most effective way to increase awareness of PTSD.

Since David launched The 365 Challenge, it has been taken up by people in the UK and the US, each has their own reasons for taking part and each is finding that spending 1 to 2 minutes a day very therapeutic. However you don’t have to go in to a gym or perform a physical exercise to take part a number of people are just walking 22 paces. To date the uploaded videos are being viewed around 10,000 times a month!

Now we are looking for more people to take up The 365 Challenge. Are you up for a Challenge?

Once you have made the decision to take up the Challenge, it is very simple to take part. The first thing to know is you can take part anywhere, in the gym, at home, at work or in the park. There are only two rules, the first is the Challenge in four parts:

– Part 1 is from day 1 to 99 the participant performs 22 reps of an exercise every day, preferably a different one as this adds to the challenge.
– Day 100 to 199 the number of reps increases to 30.
– Day 200 to 299 it’s 40 reps a day.
– For the final 65 days it’s 50 reps.

The second part is to upload the film you have taken on to social media. You should say in the film “Today is (whatever number day) of The 365 Challenge in association with MIND & The Gym Group, raising awareness of the effects of PTSD. Now that I’ve completed my 22 reps (or 30 or 40 or 50) can I please ask that you like and share my video.” When you upload the film you should also write the same.

If you are unable to upload the film on to social media then please email it to me & I will upload to Facebook & Twitter, as well as to the 365 Challenge website.

For more information contact:
David Baum Tel: 07985 991773 Email: busheybaums@ntlworld.com
www.the365challenge.org.uk

The 365 Challenge can be followed on: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/The365Challenge/PTSD or Twitter: @Bogfather & @Bimbom

Guest Post by Diamond EhealthInformer: Can some Mental Health Problems be treated with Technology?

As we move into 2017 going full steam ahead, we can see how far technology has come in recent years. I wanted to set myself the task of finding out how far this tech had come in terms of treating mental illnesses, as there is some speculation and fogginess to the science and results that people are supposedly getting.

It turns out that there are multiple useful and FDA approved technologies that do indeed help treat mental health problems. In this article, I aim to uncover some actionable, useful data and solutions that will aid sufferers of various mental health issues.

Crisis Centres

This solution may surprise you, but it utilizes technology and has proven to be very effective in serious circumstances. When people feel pushed to the end of their tether with anxiety and depression, they need to be talked to, supported and experience a sense of connection to alleviate the feeling of alienation. Sometimes your best friends and family members aren’t available or you don’t feel like talking to them. You want something completely confidential, which is why text and call centres are so effective.

They’re always open and running, plus the staff are fully trained for both mild and severe cases of anxiety and depression and other mental illnesses. You can always rely on someone picking up at the other end that will know how to talk to you and do their best to bring you back to a state of calm through grounding techniques.

Having the option to text message or call is also beneficial for those who prefer to communicate in different manners. Some sufferers may not feel like talking, but texting will work for them and their mood at that given time. On the contrary, hearing a soothing and reassuring voice on the other end of the line may be more effective for certain sufferers. Both options are there to use, whenever and wherever a person may need them.

Using Apps for Improved Mental Wellness

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There are thousands of mental health apps available for both iOS and Android phones. That being said, it’s important that before you download anything, that you do your research. Given the fact that there are so many apps to choose from, you can take an educated guess and see that a lot of them won’t be very effective.

Also, be sure to check the privacy settings for the apps you’d like to download, as you’ll most likely be entering personal information and data into them. You can always protect your information using privacy tools, removing some of the worry and stress from using specific apps.

Apps such as Pacifica help to monitor and alleviate stress levels so that individuals can work out and reduce anxiety symptoms through cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques. By using an app such as Pacifica, you can prevent your symptoms from worsening and control your stress levels to produce a healthy state of mind.

Spire

 

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Spire works through wearing a clip-on device that measures your emotions, sending signals through to your smartphone which will alert you as to what your body is currently experiencing. I know this may sound a little “out there,” but Spire has been proven to reduce stress levels by up to 50 percent in certain scenarios. When emotions are detected, the device will send signals to your phone, which then pop up on your screen telling you how you can improve your mood and emotional well-being.

The nifty device is easily clipped to a belt or bra for completely anonymous use. Repetitive high-stress levels can lead to physical health issues affecting the digestive and reproductive system (as well as other areas of the body). Stress can leave you feeling drained and lethargic, so having a device that alerts you to your emotional wellbeing and gives you advice and tips on how to reduce those stress levels is very useful.

 

Conclusion

I set out to discover whether technology really could help to treat mental health problems and to see what some of the most effective and accessible treatments available are. I think it’s fair to say that there are many ways in which technology can aid sufferers of various mental illnesses. Using apps, crisis centres, and body measuring devices we can stay on top of our stress levels, and use signals to prevent our conditions and symptoms from worsening.

I feel that using these technological solutions will work best in collaboration with any existing treatment a sufferer is undergoing- with a supportive medical team. Through using medication and counseling, these modern alternatives can provide additional beneficial results that could  boost the recovery of a patient.

Be Ur Own Light is One year old!

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I can’t believe my blog, Be Ur Own Light – started on March 1, 2016 is 1 year old today.

My journey with blogging has been so exciting, inspiring and wonderful. It has reached every part of the world and a huge number of countries in UK, Europe, USA, Canada and South America, China, India and other Asian countries, Africa, the Middle East and Australasia. It is such a blessing to be read world wide!

When I began this blog it was a diary to explain and help recover from my anxiety disorder. However, over time it has evolved into so much more!

As I grew in confidence and found other kindred spirits in my writing, I began to write for other organisations and also receive and upload guest posts on mental health topics.

This year I have written blogs for Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change, Bipolar UK, Self Harm UK, Phobia Support Forum, Counsellors Cafe, Monologues Project and the Bossing It! Academy. I have written 4 blogs for Rethink and have loved collaborating with each charity and organisation. Special mention to Louie Rodrigues at Rethink.

I have also received amazing guest posts from these wonderful charities and writers who shared their hearts in order to battle stigma. Thank you:

– Breathe Life
-Ashley Owens at Generally Anxious
– ISMA stress management
– Stephanie at Making Time for Me
– Adar (PTSD)
– Deepdene Care
– Joshua (bipolar article)
– Michael J Russ
-Richie at Live Your Now
– Megan at the Manic Years
– Quite Great Music psychotherapy
-Lystia Putranto and Karina Ramos
-Eugene Farrell at AXA PPP
-Marcus at Psychsi
– Paradigm Centre San Francisco

I can’t wait to receive more guest submissions over time!

In the past year Be Ur Own Light has grown into a #lighttribe of thousands. On Twitter we are now 2,287 , Facebook 265 of my friends and family, Instagram is 2156,  and we have 127 dedicated WordPress followers. Thank you to each and every one of you for following, commenting, sharing and reading and for helping fight stigma through talking..

This blog has also raised money for Jami mental health charity and I am excited to be starting work for Jami soon.

Its been an incredible year of sharing, writing and breaking down barriers. Its OK to talk about mental illness and mental health. Its alright to feel lost or broken or ill. Seek support for recovery and you can get better. You are not alone.

With gratitude and love on our first birthday 

Therapy Tales Part One.

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My therapy journey began at just 15 years old- when I went to see the school counsellor for talking therapy due to suffering my first anxious and depressive episode (before I was diagnosed as bipolar).

Since then- 13 years later, I have tried many different kinds of therapies to help heal me from my anxiety disorder and help manage my bipolar disorder. Therapy still has a stigma, which is wrong,- but it is vital to the healing and recovery of mental illness and general healing from stressful life events eg deaths, divorce, moving house, illness.

I have done many forms of therapy, starting off with talking therapies- where you talk to your therapist about whats going on in your life (and sometimes they psychoanalyse in order to help you). I then did 3 lots of Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT). This is where you unpack your negative thoughts and assumptions that cause your illness in thought records, where you learn to challenge thoughts and change behaviour. However, for me, CBT was frustrating. I felt like I couldn’t fully apply it and it didn’t click with my brain.

I felt that the anxiety and panic I was dealing with was very much in the subconscious- and so the CBT could not eradicate the emotional, deep response that had formed within me to certain situations. It was then I began to realise the power of exposure therapy- which is essentially, exposing yourself to your feared situation slowly, with support. The more I went out, the more people I saw and the more I did, the anxiety began to lessen. It boosted my self esteem too to know I could overcome my fears. It is something that has to be practised and you have to be kind to yourself too and in the right head space for it to work,.

Of course, therapy works in conjunction with medications and it is also vital to make sure you like your therapist and have a good relationship with them. If you dread seeing them and you aren’t getting much from it, they are likely to be the wrong therapist for you.

I have done many other therapies: art therapy (which I loved and recommend hugely if you enjoy it), meditation and deep breathing (which I still do and which really helps my anxiety) and of course the unique therapy that friends and family bring. There are more therapies out there including ACT and its always worth googling therapies.

Ultimately, don’t be too scared about sharing with a therapist. They are trained professionals, have seen it before and they are there to support you. It is also very much trial and error. Even though CBT wasn’t for me, I found other therapies which have worked.

Just be aware that NHS therapy waiting lists are months long, so if you have the money to get private care, do.

I have worked with both psychologists, psychotherapists, occupational therapists (during a period of group therapy) and of course psychiatrists in order to keep well. It is very much a collaborative effort and now I am much better, I can deal with it with my support network (with my psychiatrist in the background)

I hope you find the right course of therapy for you and know you can heal from whatever stresses you are dealing with.

Guest Post by Adar: Relationship Abuse and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

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Adar talks about the relationship abuse and PTSD they have suffered and how they are near recovery, with a combination of therapies including EMDR treatment. 

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and I have been in each other’s lives for past 10 years. Yet, up until 3 years ago, it was my secret…that I had no name for.

I am very close to my recovery (yes, recovery), which is why I feel I can write this blog now, to highlight the following:

A. I was 18 when my abusive relationship started, he was also 18, and yes…he was Jewish, and known within a circle of Jewish people (I am Jewish). Abuse can happen to anyone, at any age, of any race.

B. PTSD: Because I have it now, doesn’t mean I will have it forever. I am getting the help I need to treat it, and my PTSD isn’t triggered 99.9 percent of the time. Be kind to everyone you meet, as that person may be going through a secret struggle.

C. There are varying degrees of PTSD, yes some people are affected enough to not leave the house. I am fortunate enough this isn’t my case, but a lot of people can get out, everyone’s triggers are different, and everyone reacts differently when triggered.

D. My message to anyone with PTSD: please please please get help, or please put a close one in touch with help. The treatments work, you can get the treatments on the NHS (and maybe even through your work), and via Private facilities. I have put two links below to two very helpful websites:

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Post-traumatic-stress-disorder/Pages/Treatment.aspx

http://www.ptsduk.org/

So, here is my story:

I was in an abusive relationship from the age of 18 for 3 years. If you google abuse, you will find five types; I experienced four- emotional, physical, religious, sexual…and I assume if my relationship had entered into marriage…financial.

When it comes to expressing my feelings about what happened to me, I became the master at making people think that everything was ok. But behind closed doors, I was in shock, mentally and physically… for years.

Friends that were around at time, had no idea what was happening to me, and neither did my own parents. In the aftermath, I buried everything, out of protection for the people around me, and because I was still trying process what had happened me. Physically, I was already showing signs of my mental state; being diagnosed with a lung condition because acid had mysteriously tipped into my lungs (looking back, potentially caused by the fight or flight, cortisol/stress, or something similar).

During all of this, I somehow managed to completed 2 degree’s (to a high standard), completed a summer on Camp as a leader in America, and Produced a year-long theatre production ….however, I was secretly drowning, and I couldn’t find a way to swim back to shore.

Fast forward, and 3 years ago, I started having panic attacks (4 years after I was well clear of the danger). At first these happened during the day, then started happening during my sleep. At times, this also came with an inability to speak, which there no physical explanation was for. It culminated in a trip to A & E, as my brain basically broke down. Before all of this, I had never had a panic attack, and I was not an anxious person.

A few months later, I was formally diagnosed with PTSD by my consultant, and after a wait, because of a bipolar 2 disorder diagnosis at the same time, I started EMDR treatment.

EMDR is AMAZING. FULL. STOP. It works by processing traumatic images that are stuck on one side of the brain, which couldn’t process themselves. When triggered, these images are like reliving the trauma (the image pops back up in your head). My therapist grades my disturbance on a scale of 1-10, and then uses my eye movements to process the images (by waving her fingers in front of my eyes). The idea is that the disturbance level decreases each time/ over time. It seems to be working for me; my therapist went over the list of problems I came to her with 2 months ago, and we checked a lot off the list! J

My therapist has also cleared up something important for me, which I want to pass on. I walked around trying to understand why I froze…why I just froze. My therapist said:

‘When things we cannot process at the time are happening to us, there is a survival instinct that makes us freeze…. After years of trying to figure it out, why someone so strong natured…just froze… now I understand. I hope that thought helps someone else out there, still trying to understand. We were trying to survive.’

With all the help I have been given, and the support of everyone close to me, I have managed to find a way to forgive my abuser, not for his sake, but for mine. I was carrying around a lot of hate and anger, and it was taking me down, from the inside. I am not suggesting this will work for everyone, but it has for me. I can move on now knowing that karma will one day kick in…and God is watching everything.

To conclude, yes, sometimes I feel like a ticking time bomb, and yes, I have to be vigilant of potential triggers right now, (I carry a bottle of cinnamon with me, in case I feel overwhelmed: using a sense to distract the brain), and I think I will always struggle to tell my friends what really happened (but they have been amazing), but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I didn’t think I’d be able to say this 3 months ago, but bring on my knight in shining armour…ok ok…. maybe just a date, with a nice boy…in Nandos restaurant and a life full of my fulfilling dreams. Bring.it.on.

‘Back from the edge, back from the dead

Back before demons took control of my head

Back to the start, back to my heart

Back to the [girl] who would reach for the stars’

– James Arthur