What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

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(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H

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Autumn leaves and Mental Health tales. (by founder Eleanor)

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(image: http://www.thechakrahouse.co.uk/chakra-hygge-fairy-lights/)

I wanted to write this blog today because I have been reflecting. Over the years, I have come to really love the Autumn (Fall) season, despite being born in summer. Its cosy and calming at times, however these months can bring on some anxiety again for me.

I think that we are all human and are affected by the changing seasons. I know that my bipolar goes in phases, but is largely controlled and stabilised by medicines. However, sometimes hormones can make me feel lower at times of the month or life events can make you feel a bit sadder than normal, and in some cases, provoke depression.

My anxiety arrives in the form of morning panic and I can find it harder to do certain tasks. However, I am lucky that I am not depressed currently but the anxious thoughts are getting worse again.

I will worry about being around crowds, travelling far or socialising en masse with people I havn’t seen for a while. I live within a community where we all gather together for religious festivals and it can be harder to do this when I am more anxious. I particularly find early mornings hard- and don’t want to leave the house before 10am usually!

Working from home is both a blessing as I can work my own hours but I go out less. I am really trying to work on going out more- even down the road, especially before it gets too cold and dark.

Despite the increase in anxiety in the past few days, I am feeling thankful. There are so many good things to look forward to. There are so many exciting projects I can be a part of. When one door closes, I know that another will open.

I am still writing my book, still running my blog and have some articles being published soon. I also do social media management. I hope that my career will continue to diversify and bring joy.  I also need stability and the life of a freelancer, though fulfilling at times, is never easy.

There is a lot to be grateful for- family and friends, my fiance and life- despite the fears, anxiety and catastrophising that I do at times and am trying to limit. Positive mindset is so important- I am working on it!

Autumn can make us feel sadder or more anxious, or cause other mental health symptoms.  However, like now, it can also feel comforting- as I write on my computer, sipping a cup of tea as the darkness is falling. (Is it too new age of me to use the word ‘hygge’)?

As the leaves begin to fall and the frosts come its so important we find our lights in the darkness.

How are you doing? Let me know below!

Love,

Eleanor

Mental health stigma and drug addiction Guest post by Bill Weiss

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(image: https://understandinginternationalmentalhealth.wordpress.com)

The stigma that some people see looming over drug addiction and drug abuse disorder will prevent thousands of people from getting the help they so desperately need and deserve. Viewing drug abuse as a disfigurement of one’s will and self-worth is very harmful and can leave people in active addiction.

The fear of admitting that they are struggling and the judgment that will face afterward can be catastrophic. It has been scientifically proven that drug abuse disorder and addiction is a disease of the mind and body. There should not be any negative views toward someone when they decide it is time to get help for this issue.

During active addiction, many users will take part in actions that the clean/sober them would never think about doing. From the outside looking in, these decisions and behaviors can seem unusual, most of the time they are.

Watching someone absolutely self-destruct is very difficult. You may just want to shake the person struggling and scream “WHY CAN’T YOU STOP?!”. If only it was that easy.

Drug abuse and addiction is a surface issue, it’s the problem the whole world can see, but over 80% of drug addicts struggle with underlying mental health issues.

 

Mental Health Issues and Drug Addiction  

Far too many of those currently in active addiction have never received proper care to help them with their mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, PTSD and bipolar are the most common underlying mental health issues that can easily influence drug abuse. When one does not receive proper therapy and/or medications to help them with these problems they may turn to drugs for relief. Self-medicating the problem provides temporary relief, but nothing is actually being done to resolve and work on the issues.

The longer someone uses the worse their mental health issues will become. Depressive episodes can turn into suicidal thoughts and ideations. Anxiety can turn into panic disorder. Drugs do not solve the problem, but for someone struggling with mental health issues will find a level of mental peace from the drugs. Even as their life spirals out of control, they may accept it and continue to get high.

This isn’t their fault. Long-term abuse of any narcotic substance will alter the way one’s brain reacts to and handles certain situations. The chemical balance has been thrown out of whack, the drugs now have near complete control.

Breaking free from the powerful grip of these drugs is not easy, especially if the person struggling believes they will be harshly judged as the stigma around addiction follows them.

 

Breaking the Drug Stigma

Accidental drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death in the USA. We are facing a drug epidemic like never before, more US citizens passed away due to a drug overdose in 2017 than in the entire Vietnam War.

As a country we must help remove this stigma, it is literally a matter of life and death. Millions of people are currently struggling with drug addiction, tens of millions of families will be affected. How can you do your part of getting rid of the addiction stigma?

Educating yourself and others about drug addiction statistics and facts will help one truly understand the impact that drugs have had and will continue to have in this country. Drug addicts are not how they are commonly depicted in movies.

Addiction can affect anyone, any sex, religion and financial background can fall victim to substances and mental health issues. It is not just something that destroys the lives of the homeless and the poor. These are mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, friends, aunts and uncles who are being destroyed by these terrible substances.

If someone you care about is currently struggling with drug abuse/addiction the best thing you can do for them is to let them know that you are there for them whenever they are ready to get help. While you may not 100% understand what they are going through, you know that they need help and that’s all that matters.

It is strongly suggested by most medical professional that anyone struggling with drug abuse or addiction issues gets professional help from a drug treatment center.

 

Why you can overcome mental health challenges and anxiety to succeed in life: Guest post by James Kenneth

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(image: OMG Quotes)

Hi, I’m James. I’m 25. I’m a regular person just like you.

I suffer from clinical anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I’ll take you on a journey through my life experience and perhaps this, in turn, will help you on your life path.

As a child, I was rather timid – not the most sociable. I spent a lot of my time reading (which I still do). And, I was rather anxious too.

Every week, several times a week, I would wet my underwear at school because I was scared to tell the teacher that I needed the toilet. Every week without fail, several times a week, I would wet the bed at night because I was afraid to go to the toilet by myself in the night-time. All this wetting myself only stopped when I reached the age of 11, and boy was that a relief. Not just for me, but for my Mum as well – the laundry pile reduced massively.

By the time I went to secondary school, it was clear that something really wasn’t right. I wasn’t making friends, and I just felt downright awful.

My Mum, to whom I am eternally grateful, decided to put me in talking therapy. And it helped. I actually ended up being in therapy, on and off, for ten years. I’ll talk more about my experience with therapy a bit later.

At aged 14, I had a major positive breakthrough. I was on a school trip with 30 other teens. We were outside the country, in a totally different environment, away from home.

At first, I was how I’d always been – shy, worried, quiet. But then something big happened. I opened my mouth. Not only that, but people liked what I had to say. People found me fun and humorous, and  liked me. That gave me a major confidence boost. It was one of the biggest turning points in my life.

It’s all because I was determined to change, to grow. I, of my own volition, opened my mouth, took a leap, and overcame a big emotional obstacle.It wasn’t easy but it was needed.

When I was 19, I moved to a different country. Was I ready to? I was still an emotional wreck to be honest. Much more mentally healthy than I had been at age 11, but an emotional wreck nonetheless. But, thank G-d, really big positive transformation began from this point on.

The main reason – because I am, and always have been, 100% determined to totally manage and overcome my anxiety and I know I will. I was ready to make big changes.

With G-d’s grace, I searched for and acquired some fabulous mentors to help me. They aided me to deepen my self-awareness and hence overcome more emotional obstacles. It is known that awareness is often the first step towards change.

At age 21, I decided it would be a good idea to see a doctor. I was prescibed with Venlafaxine. It took 6 weeks to kick in and then wow – life changed dramatically. I was still James Kenneth, but I was calmer, more content, and level-headed. I’m not saying the medicine totally removed the anxiety, but it helped – big time.

While on the Venlafaxine, since I had a calmer mind, I was able to work even more on overcoming my emotional obstacles. And I did. I was on that medicine for a total of three years and it worked me wonders. And then I came off it when I no longer needed it.

Let’s talk more about my therapy. As the many years of therapy went by, I spoke out what was on my mind and I became increasingly self-aware. With the new self-awareness I had and the support, I was able to gradually change my way of thinking to a healthier one.

It’s funny, the reason I actually stopped therapy after 10 years of it, was because I now understood myself and what I had to work on, far better than the therapist did. It definitely gave me more insight.

Another thing that’s help me in more recent years is reading self-help books. Some of these books have really helped me on my journey of growth. I very much recommend. “The Road Less Travelled” by Dr. Scott Peck, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” co-written by Richard Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I recommend having a browse online and finding out more. I think they’re great!

To end, I’d like to tell you how things are now, in my current life situation. Not only am I no longer an emotional wreck – I’m a happy, self-aware individual who lives a great life. I’ve been happily married now for a year and a half. I’m not saying I no longer have any anxiety. I do. But I’m not the same person I was at age 11.

Heck, I’m not the same person I was even one year ago.

Every year I’m making leaps and bounds in managing my mental illness because I am determined to overcome it and live my best life. I believe that you can get better to, just reach out for help from others- be it medical teams, mentors, doctors or counsellors . With this help, we can recover and it is ESSENTIAL to reach for help and practise self care, kindness and compassion.

James Kenneth is a writer who has had  clinical anxiety and writes on self help. 

A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

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

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postnatal Depression

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

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

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

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

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

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Anxiety Disorders

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

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

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

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

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

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

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

Panic Disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Metro article extract by Eleanor: ‘My Dad and I have helped each other through our Bipolar disorder’

Our founder Eleanor and her Dad shared their story with Metro.co.uk for Fathers Day and Dads Mental Health Day. Here is an extract:

I am the child of a father with bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with the same condition aged 16 in 2004 – this was only four years after my dad was diagnosed at the age of 44. Our story is a special and unique one, and dad and I have a strong bond as a result.

However, it has not always been easy for me and my family.  Growing up with my mum, dad and younger sister in Hertfordshire, I didn’t fully know that my dad had serious mental health issues until my teenage years. I was largely sheltered from it by my mum and my loving grandparents as a child. My grandparents would look after us when dad was ill with depression and mum had to work.

I am the eldest, and being the child of someone with a mental illness did bring its own challenges. I have always felt a sense of duty and responsibility to look after my sister and both my parents, despite receiving a lot of love and care. This sentiment has meant that I have always felt a need to look after those around me, and make sure my dad is stable with his health.

Many children of those with serious mental health issues are exposed to a lot more than I was. My childhood was largely happy. My dad was never sectioned or hospitalised and never experienced the psychosis that I have experienced with my own bipolar. There were no alcohol or drug issues in my home but dad did experience mood fluctuations with both mania and depression.

He also experienced panic attacks that stopped him from working. Dad remembers having these when I was just four-years-old. In 1996, he had his first bout of severe depression and anxiety. His panic attacks meant that he had to stop working at his job in finance after collapsing there.

Mum became the breadwinner, with two children under seven. My sister was only five-years-old. I know this wasn’t easy for anyone though I don’t fully remember it. I have been told that dad was often not around during the day due to his depression. He would retreat into his bed and sleep, but would come and see us in the evenings, once we came home from school.

I do remember visiting him in hospital one time after his severe panic made him collapse in the street. He was having his heart monitored to rule out a heart attack and was eventually discharged home.

Dad was never referred to a psychiatrist and he believes this is why his bipolar was undiagnosed for so long. He gradually recovered with antidepressant medication and support from the GP and my mum.

He slowly coaxed himself out of bed and out the house to walk down the road to buy a paper. This would take several hours. His depression lifted and he eventually went back to work. Life was easier for our family for a while, although financially, things were tight and there was always a risk my dad might not be able to work.

 

 

Read the rest of the article : https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/17/my-dad-and-i-have-helped-each-other-through-bipolar-disorder-heres-our-story-7627817/?ito=cbshare

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Guest Post: Interview with Dr Janina Scarlet, author of new book ‘Therapy Quest’

I have got to know Dr Janina Scarlet, psychologist as I have written more across the media. Janina writes about therapy and mental health in an approachable and meaningful way. She also loves superheroes and fantasy and incorporates them into her work!

This week for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spoke to her as she launches her  new book ‘Therapy Quest’.

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

Therapy Quest is an interactive fantasy book in which YOU (the reader) are the main character. You are transported to a magical world of Here and are the Chosen One to stop an evil sorceress, Mallena, from destroying the world. Only you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. Your anxieties and insecurities nearly lead you to abandon your quest altogether. However, if you decide to partner up with some new friends, such as a vampire with an eating disorder, and an Ogre who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you just might be able to become a hero after all.

The book is written in a game-like format, which allows you to make choices along the way. Each choice you make will change the rest of your journey and can either allow you to earn or lose points. Some choices can kill your friends or your character, so you have to be careful.

Each time you make a choice, you will also learn a mental health skill, and you will need all the skills you can learn along the way to help you in your final battle.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book with self-help elements in it, in which the reader could learn these skills through the characters they were reading about. My editor, Andrew McAleer, had the brilliant idea of having a similar format to “Choose Your Own Adventure” fighting fantasy books. This sounded like a very interesting challenge to me, and I am extremely honoured to have been able to work on it.

Could you explain a bit about what Superhero Therapy is and how it works in the book?

Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating elements of popular culture, such as fantasy and science fiction books, movies, TV shows, as well as video games, comic books (Superhero or otherwise) into evidence-based (research-supported) therapy to help clients to become their own version of a superhero in real life (IRL).

In Therapy Quest, the reader is the Chosen One, the Hero of their own journey even if they question their ability to do so. Through learning skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance, and following their own core values, the readers are invited to take their own superhero journey and develop their own superhero skills, which can be utilized in their every day life as well.

Who could you recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up who might enjoy fantasy books and would like to learn skills to manage depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health struggles.

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Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest, a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.

Guest Post: 5 Steps to control Anxiety and help Panic attacks by Katie Rose

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(image: Kate Rose/ internet)

My name is Kate and just over 2 years ago I had my first panic attack. It was without a doubt, the scariest moment in my life and to think I’m at the point where now I can somewhat control my anxiety, feels like a miracle. Anxiety is not something that you can “just get over” which I’ve often heard those who don’t suffer from it, say. (So don’t worry if you’re struggling!) Though I’m a lot more stable now, I still experience mild anxiety every now and again. This post will tell you how I managed to tame my anxiety and help prevent my panic attacks.

#1 Stop Drinking Alcohol

Whether you agree alcohol is the reason for your panic attacks or not, it’s a proven cause to why people suffer from anxiety. Sadly for me, alcohol is the number one cause of why I would experience panic attacks and get myself into such an unstable state. As a result, I will no longer drink even a drop of alcohol and since, I haven’t experienced a panic attack. This is not the same for everyone- some people don’t drink but still experience high panic. It’s not that I don’t want to drink alcohol or that I don’t enjoy myself when I am drinking because I really do. However, the aftermath of it all just isn’t worth it.

In spite of that, it doesn’t mean I haven’t felt anxious since stopping drinking because I have and it’s still an ongoing battle. I’ve quite simply stopped having major panic attacks.

What Happens When I Drink Alcohol?

When I drink alcohol I end up going to bed with a racing mind (how on earth I end up sleeping I have no idea) and wake up in the early hours of the morning with major heart palpitations and breathlessness. It makes me feel like I’m about to die. Due to being tired from waking up early, I always feel extremely frustrated that my body has woken me up. No doubt that makes my anxiety worse and stops me from relaxing and calming down. So, what do I do?

Solution: Talk To Someone

Instead of going on my phone and surfing the internet to try and distract myself, I’m lucky enough to be able to wake my dad and sit and talk to him. I find that it helps me get back to sleep so much quicker than staring at a bright screen which actually makes me feel more awake. After all, it’s unlikely you want to be awake at 4 AM watching YouTube or scrolling through Instagram, instead of sleeping. By closing my eyes, yet having someone there to talk to, I’m able to slowly drift off back to sleep and thankfully not wake up again until the morning. It takes me an hour or two  to fall back asleep but compared to trying to cope alone, it’s a lot shorter. Try it – it might just work for you.

Don’t have someone at home to talk to? Perhaps you live alone and I assume for sufferers in an empty home it will feel a million times worse. Maybe it is time to take out your phone but instead of staring at the screen, call someone, even if its a helpline. That way you can lie with your eyes closed making you more likely to fall asleep and still be able to talk to someone for help.

 

#2 Breathe Using Your Stomach

It may sound slightly strange but after having the ambulance out to me on several occasions, I’ve learn that it’s my breathing that plays a huge part in being able to calm down or not. Breathing quickly and inhaling small amounts of air at a time can cause you to hyperventilate. Stop. Sit back and assess your situation. Think about how you’re breathing:

Are you breathing quickly? Are you breathing in through your nose? When I’m feeling breathless, instead of trying to take lots of little breaths that cause my chest and shoulders to move quickly, I take big, deeper breaths that’ll push my stomach out.

By concentrating on feeling my stomach move, I can focus my attention elsewhere from my racing heart and help me calm down. Use the below ‘calm breathing’ technique from Anxieties for more help:

 

  • Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. (You should feel your stomach push out slightly before your chest starts feeling full of air.)
  • Hold your breath to the count of “three.”
  • Exhale slowly, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders and stomach.

 

Remember: Listen to your body and analyse what you’re doing. Are your teeth clenched? How are you sitting? Give your body a little shake to relax yourself and even close your eyes if you wish and practice your breathing.

(image: Kate Rose/ internet)

katierose2

#3 Thought Journal

I think one of the main things that has helped me to conquer my anxiety was analysing the potential cause and the feelings I had, during the panic attacks. Sometimes it was going to bed with too much on my mind, sometimes eating too late. Even from doing absolutely nothing and other times from being rushed off my feet. It’s hard when there are so many different factors that can trigger panic attacks but trying to figure out what that cause is can help you to overcome your negative feelings.

Write them down. Making a note of the time you had your panic attack, what you were doing before, perhaps the foods you ate that day and so on, will help you to figure out if there is a pattern. Over time I began to learn that the main cause of mine was from alcohol and going to bed when I still had things to do. Ensuring I made time for cleaning my room, making my dinner for work and sorting my outfit for the following day, meant I could go to bed without worrying. I wouldn’t feel rushed and I gave myself peace of mind to improve my sleep which is so important for coping with anxiety.

#4 Do Some Exercise

One of the key factors in helping me beat my anxiety was a lifestyle change that involved getting active and eating healthy. By going to a fitness class or doing a home workout, I was able to relieve all of my built up stress and found trying to get to sleep or relax, a lot easier. I started by going the gym 2-3 days a week and currently go 3-4 times a week. I also realised that since getting a FitBit back in July 2017, it’s helped push past my panic attacks even further, by distracting me from feeling anxious with fun fitness challenges with my friends and family. What’s great with having a FitBit is, even if you don’t have friends or family who have one, there’s a whole community you can get involved with.

Not Interested In Exercise?

If you’re not into doing full-on fitness classes, why not aim to do a certain number of steps a day? My goal is 8,000 and find that whilst working 7AM to 4PM Monday to Friday, this is pretty achievable as long as I go for a stroll at dinner and again in the evenings. Doing this every day is keeping both me and my brain active and it’s these small changes that have helped me to channel my anxious thoughts, elsewhere. Here are some more tips on exercising to beat anxiety.

#5 Don’t Feel Ashamed

No matter how hard it is, you must not feel like a failure. Anxiety can affect anyone and everyone and when you least expect it. Before my panic attacks I was out partying all of the time, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and not having a care in the world. As unfortunate as they were, having panic attacks helped to show me that my body needed to be taken care of. Yet, for the troubles I have gone through, I wish I knew that sooner. I realised that during the time my anxiety was at its worst, I had an extremely negative approach to everything and often found myself using negative words a lot.

Solution: Take a time out to evaluate your attitude. As much as you may think you’re world is coming to an end, I found changing my mindset to try and think of even the worst times in a positive way, made me channel a stronger side to myself. This has been a major contributor to helping me get over my panic attacks. Replace words and phrases like “bad”, “I can’t”, “never” and “not now”, with “good”, “I can”, “always” and “yes”. You never know what good could come from it.

Alternatively, The Calm Clinic suggest something similar to a thoughts journal: a positivity journal. Fill it with positive things that have happened to you that day. Aim for at least 10 things so that no matter how bad the day may seem, you always have 10 great things to reflect back on.

Here’s their example:

Examples of good entries:

 

  • The barista gave me my coffee for free today because I was nice to her.
  • My boss complimented me on the project I finished.
  • I received a phone call from an old friend just because she wanted to catch up.

 

Examples of the types of entries you should avoid:

 

  • I woke up.
  • My mum didn’t call me which is good because I didn’t want to hear from her.
  • I didn’t screw anything up too badly.

 

Remember: If this seems too much of a chore to do, stop. Put the pen down and try something else instead, like yoga, listening to music or an audio book or reading a book yourself. If you feel pressure to write in the journal, it may make your anxiety worse. Yet by trying different methods of coping with anxiety you can find what works for you.

Why Medication Isn’t Always Right For You

I ended up being consumed by my anxiety and fears and feeling like the only way to get through it was to take medication. The doctors weren’t keen on prescribing me with any tablets at the time and I didn’t really want to take them anyway. Though, after a while I felt it all became too much. Me and my boyfriend went to Holland & Barrett to buy some calming pills.

I don’t want to promote the tablets I took in this post because I only used them once or twice. I think that trying to control my anxiety without medicine was a better solution for me and although was a challenge, made me feel strong and as though I was capable of anything. For others, taking medicine may work best for them and it really is down to the individual.

No matter how you deal with anxiety, just remember not to give up. I felt like my world was collapsing and I was so scared. Though with perseverance and time, I can now say I’m coping well with my anxiety, though the battle is still on.

This article is by Katie Rose, Lifestyle Blogger at ok Kate

ok Kate is a lifestyle blog about my life as a “normal”, young adult and the steps I’m taking to try and change my life from being boring and rather basic, to make the most of the world around me.

Guest Post: On Sexual Abuse by Anonymous Woman

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(image: JPMS Medical blogs)


The writer of this article is an anonymous woman who wanted to speak out to share her story of being sexually abused as a child and teen. She also has mental health issues as a result.

Trigger warning: please read with care 

 

I have been abused twice, both times were at the hands of people I knew and respected, once when I was 8 and once at around age 17/18.

A lot of the memories were lost due to the extent of the trauma, but having EMDR has opened up the box, broken the chain that was firmly fixed around it and let all the memories out.

It has been horrendous, reliving the abuse, the detail of my memory, almost physically feeling I am back, as a child in that bed, remembering the details .  The family friend was a women, who was so trusted by all of us, growing up I adored her, admired her, almost wanted to be her, and now, all of those feelings have vanished replaced by to many emotions to specify one.

When I was a teenager I was abused by a well known Rabbi, thankfully the abuse this man carried out has come out in to the community.

I have written this letter in the hope that more people in the community may feel more able to step forward to talk about this.

If someone would like my e mail address please ask the blog owner for it.  

Dear my abuser (s) 

This letter will never get sent , but I want you to know what impact you had on my life, how those actions which may have only lasted 15 -30 minutes , actions which you probably have forgotten about, shaped the person I have become. 

In a strange way I am grateful for the memories of what you did, as not having the memory, yet knowing that something happened was worse. When the memories savaged my brain, invading my mind with your face, your hands and your body I believed that the shock and horror would never pass, everything I had ever thought of you, all my memories of you changed from seeing you as a positive, supportive influence to a monster who had harmed me in the worst way possible.

Your actions, made me aware from such a young age of my body .For years I knew, that from the age of around 9 my body was an immensely complicated thing in my mind, at such a young age being so aware of my body affected my confidence, self esteem and self love . 

At age 8 you took away the most precious thing, you helped yourself to my innocence, you took away from the person I could have become and began my journey to becoming the person I have been.

That knowledge made me in to a pretty messed up person.

My child is around that age . I look at my child  and see a happy future, a future filled with love and self confidence. The thought of something similar happening to my child  is to painful to contemplate.

By the time I was in my teens, my journey of self destruction was well on its way. I had learned by that time how to hide things, how to keep secrets, how to come across as confident and well adjusted and to this day my public persona and the person I am inside are two very different people. My life, for so many years was about seeking physical pleasure in order to reassure myself that I was a loveable, attractive person, that having sex was the self affirmation I needed to survive, lowering myself, giving my body freely, whilst hating myself for doing it, gave me the tools to breath, to live. Even today, if I do not feel my husband desires me it destroys me for days.

There were so many questions, mostly WHY, and HOW, how could I have let this happen to me twice, and why did it happen twice ( I know now that is was BECAUSE it happened once it happened again ) , how could I have stood as an older teen -when I let the pictures overtake my mind I am screaming silently why, why, why.

It is like being at a movie, a never ending movie, you can not leave the screening, you are on the screen, you try to yell, you try to reach out to the girl in the movie, but she can not hear you, you see her at 8, you see her at 17 you see her life unravelling, and you can not do anything to stop it, you want to beg her to tell, you want to beg her to be strong.

You see the girl grow, you see the way she lived her life, and you understand how the girls journey began, it makes sense to you that the girl ends up with severe mental health issues , you see how mental health issues are worsened by no self esteem, how other tragic events  could tip her over the edge and compel her to seek comfort in the arms of any man who would take her, and you understand her.  

 I understand now that cause and effect would dictate that the reason I ended up in your office, was a direct result of what she did to me at age 8, that she was the one who started the chain of events.

You taught me, you guided me to the mind-set that “the way to get love and care is to do what a man wants”.

My whole self worth was wrapped up in a package labelled, please sleep with me.

I feel so much sadness, sadness for the girl you both violated, sadness that the girl whose body you choose to fulfil your sick desires was mine, sadness that I am constantly questioning everything, why was I there, how could I have let you, why didn’t I tell anyone, when will I be able to go a day, an hour, 10 minutes without one of you pushing your way in to my thoughts.

There is nothing I can do to turn back time, there is no way I can ask you why, or sit with you and show you the movie of my life, the one which you started, I pray that there will come a time I can accept what you both did, I hope with all my heart a day will come when you will not mean anything to me.

All I can do is wait, sit with these constant overwhelming thoughts, trying to untangle them like a necklace with those annoying knots in the chain that are impossible to open, yet I will persevere.

I will continue to pick at the chain until all those knots have gone and you both become dust that is blown away from my mind


If you need support with sexual abuse and you live in the UK please contact:

The Survivors Trust

https://migdalemunah.org.uk/

Safe Line

Night Time Anxiety and Panic: by (our founder) Eleanor

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(image: http://chrisdblog.com/12-tips-to-stop-nighttime-anxiety/)
Hi everyone,

I am writing this post because I wanted to talk about something that I experience frequently, night time anxiety and panic.

I know these aren’t rational. Its often to do with a social event trigger, having to be around lots of people or if I have a work event and it feels too overwhelming. I fear being judged or crowds of people. These days, I tend to keep busy during the day and I know I am anxious if I am procrastinating about going to bed. As thats when the anxiety kicks in, my chest feels tight, I feel hot or clammy and my negative thoughts race.

Consciously, I know the fear of the triggered event is not real. However, subconsciously my body goes into fight or flight mode, pumps me with adrenaline and worry so I cannot sleep. My thoughts start racing and the only relief I can get when I am really heightened is to cancel the feared situation or tell myself I may cancel it in the morning.

Which is not always good. For me, its so important to have exposure to the triggers to lessen my anxiety. Some nights though, this is impossible.

People should also know that I and other anxiety sufferers don’t want to cancel our plans and don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to be flooded with adrenaline and other horrible anxiety symptoms and left feeling so exhausted and alone.

Its worst at night when everyone is in bed asleep too because there is no one to talk to at that time. Sometimes, I try meditation or talking to myself kindly (‘its Ok nothing bad will happen you are safe’). Often, I am able to eventually get to sleep.

However, when I wake in the morning, the anxiety is still there and often at its height about ten minutes after I wake, leaving me feeling depleted, shaky, vulnerable and unable to face the day,

Most days I am OK, but if something new comes up that triggers me I am sucked back into the anxiety spiral. I have had extensive therapy and take medication but am starting to think Ill need anxiety meds for my night time anxiety.

Anyone else have this? Its so debilitating at times. I am still trying to find the answer that works for me. You are not alone.

Love,

Eleanor   x