Category Archives: recovery

Stand Tall Little Girl: Hope Virgo- Book Review

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I came across this wonderful book and Inspirational Mental Health book series by new publisher Trigger Press, on Twitter and via a friend of mine who knew Hope. The publisher is part of mental health charity the Shaw Mind Foundation and its book series is about reducing mental health stigma and showcasing inspirational people and stories.

Hope Virgo is a British mental health speaker, author and advocate, a survivor of eating disorder Anorexia nervosa, who continues to break stigma and speak about her recovery and on going battle with anorexia.

‘Stand Tall Little Girl’ is the real story of Hopes journey with anorexia and mental health issues. She talks about her childhood and her first diagnosis and hospitalisation. She describes anorexia as tricking her into thinking it was her best friend and coping mechanism, when it almost killed her. Hopes weight dropped so dangerously low that doctors gave her a week to live- her heart couldn’t take the strain.  At this point she was hospitalised to a specialised unit for year and was able to access treatment to start on the process of being well again.

Hope describes what living on an inpatient ward as a teenager is like and the difficult process of learning to eat and having to eat calorific meals again. She talks about the friends and comrades she made in hospital and the struggle of being in hospital for a year.

She talks about leaving hospital and finding coping mechanisms to live again, about her support network and tentative steps back out into the world, and about going to University and starting to live her life again, whilst still in the shadow of anorexia.

The book is expertly written, with insights from Hopes family about what it was like for them and Hope, when she was unwell and getting better. Each chapter deals with a specific period of time and Hope is very honest about her recovery journey. It is not smooth and she did relapse a few years ago. However, her relapse was better managed as she had developed ways of coping after hospital and most importantly, she asked for help from those around her, recognising she was unwell again.

Hopes story is one of utmost bravery and triumphing against the odds. She is now an advocate, author and speaker for mental health, runs marathons and has a healthy attitude towards food. I loved reading her inspirational, well written and beautiful story.

For more from Hope you can find her on Twitter @HopeVirgo and on the BBC and Good morning Britain on 30th July 2017.   

Bipolar Disorder: Fears and Living with a Chronic Illness

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I have always pledged in my blogs and writing to be as honest as possible- to be authentic- and tell the real story about living with mental health issues.  This blog came about from a Facebook poll and was voted what you wanted to hear about. So, here it is in all its beautiful glory!

Its been a difficult few weeks here with my anxiety disorder (which I will write about another time) and again this just highlights how up and down life with mental health conditions can be.  Recovery is not a smooth process – its always a mix of challenges, happiness, tears, excitement, fear.. mixed with peaks and troughs.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar affective disorder (a mood disorder where you get depressive and manic ‘high’ episodes) as a teenager. The fear at being diagnosed at such a young and delicate age is palpable. You fear everyones reactions and judgement. You fear whether you will be in and out of hospital. You fear whether you will ever be well or whether your medication will hold you. You wonder whether you can pick your life up again or whether you will always be different from your friends and those around you.

I wondered if I would ever go to university, travel, achieve my career dreams, have boyfriends, settle down, live my life again  (I did slowly but it took time and is a constant process). I had no idea what life held in store for me (and at times still don’t!). I am still a work in progress. I had no idea if psychosis would be ever present or if I would carry on feeling suicidal, or if I would spend my life on hospital in patient wards or in countless psychotherapy sessions. Bipolar is chronic because there is no ‘cure’. There are medications to address the chemical imbalance and therapy to help manage life but it cannot be fully eradicated.

I think when you are diagnosed with any chronic illness, you fear with a capital F. You start off by fearing what this means to your life. For me personally, I had to grow up fast. I avoided alcohol and mind altering substances . I made sure I had enough sleep and ate well. I tried to protect myself from negative people- which is hard when you are vulnerable).  I strove for my goals when I was well and relied on my support network when I wasn’t.

I have had to pick myself up countless times. I had years of depression and suicidal thoughts, some at the very time I was completing my Masters Degree. I have had countless anxiety attacks, social anxiety and fears around other people, work anxiety. I have lost my sanity due to a manic episode of illness and had to be medicated, helped and cared for away from home. Even though I am currently well with the Bipolar, the anxiety can take over. I am learning to use Yoga and Meditation to heal my mind and I am doing so much better.

The fear of ending up back in hospital is ever present. The fear of my loved ones having to see me unwell again is palpable. However, my mood stabiliser Lithium Carbonate seems to be holding me well. I no longer feel depressed or manic and my moods are in a ‘normal’ range. I do have certain side effects from medication including weight gain, thirst and having to have heart ECGs or blood tests to check my physical health is ok. This is part of the pay off Bipolar sufferers have for staying mentally well.

There are many uncertain things in my future. Pregnancy could be a difficult time, where I could become ill again and am vulnerable to post natal depression or psychosis. I
will need to be under a consultant specialising in this area.  Life stressors could get too much. However, I prefer to live my life in the NOW, enjoy each day and make the most of each day. I have learnt to be relentlessly positive and with self care and my support network I can get through anything.

There are  still times when I cry and I fear and I live in that fearful place. It is only natural with a condition that flares up at different times- especially in times of hormonal change or life stress. However, I truly believe that by finding positivity and keeping going despite the darkness, I will find the light. My boyfriend, friends and family are wonderful and I couldn’t ask for more support. This is what also gets me through. My belief in God and the Universe, in love and light and good times, will get me there. I will fight to stay well.

A Week of Contrasts: On Resilience and Mental Health

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I can’t believe that today is Friday. The past few weeks have felt a bit like a rollercoaster ride- with many ups and downs. However,  I am feeling more like me, more centred and a lot less anxious.

This is due to many reasons. Firstly, I found the inner strength on Monday and managed to get in to work. I had been off for the entire week before with panic attacks and was not feeling myself. I even had to miss a fun spa day planned with my close friends, as I was waking up with morning panic which took over. Everything became heightened and scary. So Monday, I woke up in much the same way. However by 11am, the adrenaline and the fears has dissipated and I was able, with the help of my Mum, to get into work. I had broken the cycle!

For me, when I break the cycle and do the thing I fear, I find more confidence that I will be OK. I think to myself, I survived this and my work colleagues were so supportive. It gave me that boost I needed to remind me that my anxiety disorder doesn’t have to take over everything. I love my job and could not work for a more understanding company. So, I said to myself- You can do this. You love this work. You are safe.

Tuesday I had a medical appointment and asked for the support I have needed for a long time- therapy to help manage the anxiety. I have had a lot of therapy for this.

Wednesday was an excellent day at work, I was in all day, facilitated a group on my own and it went really well, socialised with my colleagues and have a lovely albeit busy and tiring day. I still need to learn to pace myself!

Thursday I was feeling really exhausted from the day before but it was still a good day. I practised being calm and caught up on my sleep. I have found a really good app I am using for meditiations to relax me, destress, put me in a positive mood or help me to sleep.  Its called Insight Timer and I love it, it has lots of free meditiations. I find meditiation really helps me- particularly calming guided ones.

Today I did some social media and writing work. Tomorrow, I am doing absolutely nothing and I cannot wait. I am so tired but so proud of my achievements this week. Sunday we have a family barbeque and my best friends leaving drinks. I am so happy its the weekend and feeling positive- I can achieve despite the panic and I can use self help to get me where I want to be. I just hope I can continue in my positive mindset. It isn’t easy and its a constant battle and journey. I will get there.

‘Breaking Mad’: The Anxiety Journey (again)

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I have called this blog post ‘Breaking Mad’ after the title of a new book on anxiety I am reading – called ‘Breaking Mad: How to Conquer Anxiety’ . Its by a former anxiety sufferer and psychiatrist/ psychologist and I am hoping can give me some advice as to how to handle my morning panic when it tends to overwhelm.

I have really struggled this week and past month with panic and feeling overwhelmed. As this has been going on for years on and off, my panic disorder is not new- but I have to change the way I relate to it and the way I react to it. My instinct is to hide and down tools to stop the panic overtaking, but actually it has more of an effect that way and makes me wake up each morning consecutively anxious!

Distraction techniques, exposure therapy and meditation are key ways to get through that I have found of use. However, I need to find a mechanism that can really help. I have had various talking therapies in the past including CBT, which were not as helpful as I thought they would be. I am open to more therapy though.

Blogging of course is therapeutic and I hope one day to be blogging and telling you I am mastering living with my panic attacks and conquering them again. I know I can do it- it will be the longest journey- but long journeys start with one small, simple step.

That step is getting more support and also finding ways through the panic without taking shortcuts so I temporarily feel better.  This book could help, or it is just some advice that won’t work for me. Yet its worth a try!

I have to take some of the pressure off myself too and give myself time to really recover and thrive again. This weekend I will try to practise a lot of relaxation and positive thinking, particularly in the mornings.

We are a Top 100 Bipolar Disorder Blog!

Thank you to Feedspot.com for giving us another Blog award! As well as being a Top 30 social anxiety blog, we are listed as a Top 100 blog for people with Bipolar disorder, at number 49!

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We have been listed amongst some amazing, informative websites! Take a look at the full list here: http://blog.feedspot.com/bipolar_disorder_blogs/

Thanks to Anuj and all at Feedspot for recognising our work!

29- On Birthdays and Positivity

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This weekend I turned 29! As many of you will have read, it had been a very hard week leading up to my birthday due to panic attacks so I was pleased to be able to celebrate with my boyfriend, friends and family- who came to stay, joined my birthday dinner/s, went for birthday gatherings at friends and family (including cake!) and really just enjoyed myself. It was lovely opening cards and presents and feeling loved.

The past year has been a big milestone for me in so many positive ways- new relationship, new job, new friends and time with old friends, volunteering,  writing and blogging, travelling and seeing lots of theatre shows . I am hoping the year ahead will be happy and healthy and full of good things. (and as I keep being reminded, I’m now in my 30th year eek!

This week I have been able to go in to work and been managing my anxiety through doing yoga meditation and getting extra support from loved ones and wonderful colleagues.

Heres to the next year ahead!

Anxiety Gremlins: Panic, Exhaustion and everything in between

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This post is probably the most honest one I have written (and as you all know I am pretty open about my mental health struggles).

I am completely and utterly exhausted, tired and fed up. I have been experiencing daily morning panic for 5 days, where leaving the house to go to work feels incredibly overwhelming.

This has happened to me before and I have got through it with exposure therapy and excellent support networks and medical team. I am incredibly lucky also that I work with supportive colleagues/ teams in my job, who go above and beyond to make sure I can be OK.

I am vulnerable to certain life stressors which can trigger my panic attacks and in particular morning anxiety. Due to the adrenaline and cortisol that is triggered during the panic, I feel like I have run a marathon but equally don’t want to sleep too much during the day so I am at home resting, recovering and recuperating. This may mean watching Love Island religiously, but I digress….

I feel like I am constantly on an emotional tread mill. The anxiety gremlins keep rearing their heads. This week has been particularly challenging due to the fact I have had panic attacks every morning. For me, my attacks are more emotional- I don’t tend to get palpitations or hyperventilate, I freeze like in fight or flight and then avoid. The avoidance temporarily stops symptoms but….

Avoidance is the worst thing you can do when you have an anxiety disorder. The worst. And yet we do it to feel ‘safe’ when really the feared event or trigger is not fearful at all.

I know that with support, I can get through this and feel much better. I have been recommended to the charity No Panic by a friend and yesterday I did the Yoga Nidra relxation meditation which calms the mind and body . I will keep trying to conquer the fears triggering my panic disorder- I have tried so much in the past but will have to keep going. I have been on the NHS waiting list for therapy for over a year. So I am having to do a lot of self help methods in the mean time.

Thank you everyone who has offered advice and support. Off to rest but will be back soon.

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