Category Archives: Social Anxiety

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.

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.

Mental Health, Social Media and Relationships: Reality vs the Edit

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This post has been inspired by a few experiences that have happened to me in my life- regarding relationships with others- be they a friend or otherwise and social media.

I am a self confessed social media lover and addict. I love its ease, I use it as a way to store memories to look back on- photos, places I have been. A kind of virtual diary. I use it to keep in touch with friends, acquaintances who I would never normally see as they are in different countries or regions- and to keep in touch with friends I see regularly. I am always on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (though not Snapchat- showing my age) and I truly love being online. Most of the time.

The difficult part about having bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder/ social anxiety is that it is not easily visible. Equally, on social media we always tend to present an edited version of ourselves- the good side. The positive side. The places we’ve been and the friends we’ve seen, those close to us. My Facebook profile, when I can achieve things, shows me smiling and being out and about. However, this has the potential to upset people if I have had to cancel arrangements due to anxiety.

The main refrain is often ‘But you were able to do it then- so why can’t you do it now?’.   How come the next day you could go out for dinner (I saw it on your Facebook)?

I understand this reaction. I do post a lot to celebrate achievements to myself and keep memories- happy memories for when I do become unwell again (which I hope won’t be for a long time). Social anxiety means that I want to look back on and remember the good times, the happy times.

The tough part is that relationships can become strained if one overly posts on social media. So its a complete dichotomy.

Do I post my life and enjoy the times I am able to socialise and go out without anxiety? Or do I edit what I upload so as not to hurt feelings of people I have had to cancel due to anxiety attacks? Ultimately- do I take my memories offline and into a private journal or on Instagram rather than Facebook?

All of this has been going through my head. Mental illness is not as straight forward to others as a broken leg. I don’t wear a sign saying I am bipolar or a bandage round my head.

I may look like I am having the time of my life…. but one may not see that:

Yesterday I could have had a panic attack which meant I couldn’t leave the house as I felt overwhelmed and embarrassed, and totally drained from the adrenaline. I got out to socialise now because a family member drove me somewhere as a form of exposure therapy to lessen my anxiety.

OR this scenario…..

My anxiety took over and I felt so frightened I was hyperventilating, crying and beating myself up emotionally, for not being able to see a friend. Because yes, we don’t want to have this and we care deeply about our friends feelings.

OR this scenario….

I have heard you talking negatively about me to someone else because I had to cancel an arrangement. Yet, I have anxiety about travel and socialising and sometimes feel overwhelmed. You know this, yet will still be upset- which I have to take into account.

So no, I am not really having the time of my life all the time. Friends are my priority but equally optimum health and managing day by day is to me hugely important.

I will try my very best not to let you down. If I hurt you through my social anxiety, it is never intentional.

I have learnt the hard way the pitfalls of social media with mental health issues. The large part is that we don’t want to talk about how depressed or anxious or panicked we are on Facebook. So it gets hidden and misunderstandings happen.

I hope one day it comes into the light, through my blog and when I can be more open.

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

Psychiatric Medication and Weight Gain- a Journey to taking back control.

This post is intensely personal for me as it encompasses 3 years of recovery from  a severe bipolar manic episode that left me hospitalised. Weight gain is a side effect from more than one of my medications and in this article I will explain my journey and why now I want to take control back.

I have (up until the past few years) always been tall, slim and curvy and never had to worry about my weight. It simply didnt register to me that I couldn’t eat carbs or ice cream or pizza (or my favourite food in the world- pasta)- my height, at 5 foot 10, meant I could carry my weight more than the average short person.

The first time I put on significant amounts of weight due to psychiatric medication was after going on the anti psychotic Olanzepine, aged 16 after an acute episode of depression. I ballooned in weight (due to cravings) and put on maybe 2 stone (not sure what that is in kilos)- but at the time as I was a teenager with a fast metabolism, I was able to lose the weight once I came off the Olanzepine and go back to being a size 12 . My first mood stabiliser- Carbamazepine, that I was on for 10 years didn’t cause the weight gain I have now seen and I went back to being slim.

Over the years as I was put on different anti depressants and experienced suicidal depressions and social anxiety, I comfort ate- pasta, chocolate, cheese to take away the pain of the depression. Still, in 2013, I was maybe only a UK size 14-16 (having been an average 12-14). As mentioned, my tall frame meant I didn’t look big.

Then, in 2014, I was hospitalised due to mania and psychosis and given many medications for psychosis and anxiety- Haloperidol, Benzodiazepines, Upped dosage of Quetaipine in addition to my mood stabiliser and anti depressants . Also during the mania, my mind was so busy that I constantly craved food and snacks and couldn’t regulate my appetite. So weight gain was inevitable.

I put on a lot of weight over my time in hospital, day hospital and at home when recovering afterwards- I wasn’t working, was very anxious and low and the comfort eating began. Add to the lack of exercise- I became overweight and unfit fast. I also found that my new stabiliser Lithium, plus the Quetaipine and anti deps, meant I had bad sugar cravings and became addicted to sugar. I still am, but I am trying to regulate it. This meant I was drinking a lot of juice and eating chocolate.

This week I went to the Doctor and was weighed. I have put on 5 stone in 3 years since Ive been unwell. This was a huge wake up call. The Doctor told me that reducing the Quetaipine would help my weight loss as it causes increase in appetite.

I have bought the Slimming world cook book and Exercise DVDS and really need to find the willpower to just start my diet and exercise regime. Being the size I am- I need to lose weight for health reasons and this is what is spurring me on to begin.