Category Archives: Social Anxiety

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.

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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The Anxiety Wheel: Lifes Voyage

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It has been a while- about a month since I have written about everything going on. This is because between the moments where I feel full of health and happy, I have been experiencing morning panic attacks at times again and I just didn’t have the energy to process it and write about it.

I have had morning anxiety for a long time, where I wake feeling overwhelmed and fearful about the day and I have had lots of therapy to try and help combat it. The only thing that seems to work for me a the moment is resilience and picking myself back up- but its not easy. After the adrenaline stops, I often feel embarrassed that I couldnt do a desired activity and I don’t want to let others down also. Its a catch 22.

I am doing a bit better this week but last week was tough. When I have breakthroughs, moments where I can socialise or go to work- then its excellent because it gives me confidence to continue.

Here is a diary entry I wrote in Starbucks the other day to make sense of the ups and downs of what I term the ‘Anxiety Wheel’:

In the past week and a half, I have been experiencing an increase in my levels of anxiety. It reminds me of a metaphor- that of running around a hamster wheel. Let me explain.

Sometimes it feels like I’m treading, treading, treading, trying to keep the wheel of life turning. Trying with all my might to function at a ‘normal’ pace. There are days when I can enjoy the running and everything feels enjoyable and exciting. There are days when I can take my feet off the hamster wheel and rest.

Yet, sometimes in my rest times, I can be overwhelmed by the anxious thoughts of lifes spinning wheel. It all feels too much and then I freeze, I hide, I go into fight or flight. I metaphorically hide and sleep in my safe cage, before I pick up the courage to turn lifes wheel again.

Today I am taking back control of my life and spinning the wheel slowly and cautiously before I get back into the full groove again. Picking myself up after panic attacks is not at all easy,. However, with support, resilience and inner strength, I can do this. I will feel safe and comfortable.’

Shame and Psychosis article for Time to Change

My latest article for Time to Change, a campaign in the UK aiming to end mental health discrimination. (name has been changed)

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Three years ago last month, my mind lost touch with reality in a very rapid turn of events that culminated in an acute manic episode of bipolar affective disorder. Having been diagnosed with bipolar in 2004, I had not experienced any mania or hypomania (a lesser manic state) in ten years, although I had fallen into a suicidal depression just six months earlier. So when my brain fell into full blown psychosis – with delusions and grandiose thoughts, fearful thoughts about loved ones and being in danger and a complete change in rational perception – it ripped apart the fabric of my life and all I knew. I am writing this to explain what psychosis is really like.

I was just 25 and although I had experienced a mixed state which left me hospitalised at 16 (and had experienced some psychosis then), this was by far the most challenging, lengthy and painful bout of mania and psychosis that I had experienced. I began to believe that my step father was behind why I was in hospital and wouldn‘t let him see me, I thought that the doctors and nurses were a gang holding me hostage. I was fearful of everything, talking and singing to myself, unable to sit still and became quite agitated at times with the staff and patients, which is completely out of character for me. I simply didn’t know what was real or unreal and I was so frightened of the staff and others while my brain was in this state. Eventually, I recovered after about two months of being given anti-psychotic medication and tranquilisers to help me rest (often I was pacing around due to agitation/ mania), in combination with individual and group therapies. I left hospital after three months.

I rarely talk about my psychotic state, which led me to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This is due to shame: I was ashamed of myself even though it wasn’t my fault – rather down to faulty brain chemistry and my medication that had stopped working. There is still a huge amount of stigma about psychosis and anything that makes you lose your sanity. My psychosis is part of my bipolar illness and happened completely out of the blue. My mood stabiliser hadn’t been holding me for some time but no one could have predicted quite how rapid my descent into psychosis and illness could have been (it took only a number of days and escalated at a weekend, leaving me to be admitted via A&E, which proved traumatising).

The shame of losing your mind is great and also acting out of character shatters your self-esteem. When I left hospital, I sunk into a depression due to the shame of how I acted in hospital and how my brain and its chemistry could go so catastrophically wrong. Kindness goes a long way when you are feeling ashamed. If you have a friend or family member struggling with this – be calm, show kindness, and show up for them. They need your support at what is an incredibly painful time. Let the person with feelings of shame about their illness know that they are human, that they are an important friend to you, and stand by them.

What truly helped me in those dark days was the attitude of my psychiatrist in hospital and in the day recovery unit I attended after. Despite being psychotic and unwell in hospital and quite agitated at times, my doctor persevered to get me on the right medication and put up with my changing moods. She knew that if I took anti-psychotics and then agreed to go on lithium carbonate (the main mood stabilising medication for bipolar disorder) that I would recover – even if it took me months to get there. It was a slow recovery but I got there in time. Her patience, perseverance and kindness saved me from a very acute episode of illness. Similarly, the psychiatrist and all the staff at the Day Recovery Unit helped me in my down days starting on lithium and having regular blood tests, recovering from being very unwell and they treated me like a human being, when I had felt so ashamed.

If it wasn’t for the Doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and other staff who looked after me  and helped build me back up, I wouldn’t be here today.

There is no need to feel ashamed, although you may do.

Although I still find it hard to talk about my descent into a psychotic state – I am so grateful to the NHS for all the help I was given and have been well for some time. I hope this article helps others in a similar position – you are not alone and don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/there-should-be-no-shame-experiencing-psychosis

The Power of Meditation: Guest Post by Jimmy Vick

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Meditation is one of the most preferred activities for all, regardless of gender, age or other factors. People have different opinions about meditation and many consider meditation to be similar to prayer. For others, it is an activity that is meant for relaxation and getting away from their daily hectic lives. In general, meditation is the activity of turning your complete concentration to a single point, concentrating on the breath, on bodily feelings, or on a mantra and affirmation. Meditation is about diverting your thoughts and concentrating on the present.

The main goal of meditation is to achieve an inner state of awareness and strengthen personal and spiritual development. In practice, meditation consists of intense concentration on  sounds, images or emotions. Meditation increases awareness of the present moment, lessens stress, encourages relaxation, and improves personal and spiritual development. The various religious and non religious traditions in the world have given rise to an array of meditative practices. The power and benefits of meditation are many.

Here are some of the notable benefits and the power of meditation:

Healing Power

Meditation promotes healing. People who meditate daily can heal many of their illnesses. In meditation, healing takes place because the mind of the person will be calm, alert and completely contented. Meditation  can be very powerful. To accomplish an ideal state of health, one has to be mentally tranquil which can be attained via meditation. Meditation can  assist and promote recovery from ailments from many chronic health issues.

 

No Side Effects

Meditation, when used for treating medical complications, has no side effects. It is the main reason why many people enjoy practising it. It is an activity that people regardless of age and gender can follow. Since meditation does not have any negative side effects, it is suitable and safe alongside medical treatment.

Relaxation

One of the main reasons why most of the people follow meditation in their daily life is for relaxation. We live in a chaotic world where everything is moving very fast. People are really tired and need relaxation in order to get away from their chaotic world. Meditation is a perfect way to assist relaxation in ones daily life. It helps you to stop moving around, working, thinking, talking, seeing, hearing, etc and allow you to rest. Meditation can help you create a cool and calm mind and therefore aids relaxation.

Improve Concentration

If you would like to improve your concentration, meditation can help. Meditation is all about sitting in a calm place and focusing on only one thing at a time. Meditation lets you focus intensely on your daily life. It is a perfect means for you to get away from distractions and direct your attention to what you need to focus on.

Other Benefits of Meditation                                           

  • The relaxation response that you get from meditation allows you to reduce metabolism, lessen blood pressure, and get better heart rate, breathing, and brain function.
  • Meditation gives balance to your overall bodily systems.
  • Meditation is very helpful and can assist us to feel happier.
  • Meditation is a practice that assists us to control our own mind and as a result, our own life and find out more about ourselves.
  • Meditation can aid us to get rid of negative thoughts, worries, nervousness, and everything that can stop us from feeling happy.
  • Meditation can provide us with a calm mind and it gives time free from stress and tension.
  • Meditation is a good method to give clarity of perception. It aids to reduce feelings of negative mood, tension, sadness, and anger.
  • Improvements in communication, flourishing of skills and talents, a powerful inner strength, etc can be achievable through meditation.
  • Meditation offers the capability to unite to an inner source of energy and enhances ones self-awareness.
  • Relaxation, transformation, and quality of life are all natural results of meditating frequently. It helps you promote inner peace and feel more alive.

 

Author Bio

I’m Jimmy Vick.  I have been working as a freelance writer  At present, I work for a best essay writing service online and it allows me to deal with different subjects in which I am an expert. I love writing articles for blogs and other online publications.