My story of recovery from Alcoholism and Mental illness: Guest blog by Allen

recoverme
(image: https://www.rehab-recovery.co.uk)

My name is Allen and this is my recovery journey from alcoholism and mental illness.

On 12th October 2005 I had my last drink of alcohol and the following morning I was admitted to a psychiatric unit.  On reflection I didn’t know what was happening and had no clue what was happening emotionally, physically or mentally just that I was going into hospital for a short stay to get better.

Better from what? Whats happening to me? When can I go home? It was like a constant conversation in my head and I couldn’t turn it off.  Little did I know that I had been admitted because I was a risk to myself and others and I was going to be detoxed from alcohol and drugs.

I was never the world’s greatest drinker but I loved everything about alcohol and now know that since my teenage years,  alcohol was a constant in my life at home, in pubs, on the train to work, in the park, in the toilet, in secret or in the open and it had been that way since teenage life.

So I stayed in that psychiatric unit for 6 ½ months and I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 (a mood disorder) and prescribed medication to deal with that.  Since that time, I have experienced two courses of electro convulsive therapy, Cognitive behavioural therapy, one to one counselling, 12 step programmes for drugs and alcohol,  taken anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and  read numerous self help books.

This week I will reach 13 years of sobriety- a great achievement considering I couldn’t go a day without alcohol. However,  2018 has seen me admitted into another psychiatric unit, following numerous suicide attempts and thoughts.

I received an additional diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and a dawning realisation that I need to go way back to my early years to start to really understand me. Childhood / teenage trauma, bullying, substance and alcohol misuse, relationship problems, low self-esteem and lack of confidence, financial woes and debts mounted up.

The past 13 years have enabled me with the help of a twelve step programme to manage life, be as good a father as possible, to be a son, brother and uncle, and a friend.

I have been able to hold down a job and  study a degree in Psychology and Counselling,. I became a Mental health first aider and I suppose now I need to look at me and listen to others as to how I can manage my mental health and addiction. I can learn to be the best father I can be to my son and daughter, and focus on what I need to do to alter the cycle of mental illness that has plagued me for so long.  

Long term therapy seems to be the best option and I hopefully begin this process with an assessment very soon. I am so proud to be miles away from where I was in early 2018. Then, I asked a member of the Home Treatment Team (for crisis care) if I could go into hospital. I also shared for the first time that I have heard a voice for most of my life and the voice has made me harm myself.

I am now doing so much better and hope that therapy helps me to heal even more.

Allen is a writer, mental health first aider and mental health worker.

Advertisements

Being a parent of a child taking GCSE exams and looking after wellbeing: Guest Post by David Welham

exams1
(image: http://thesprout.co.uk)

Millions of parents would have experienced the stress and anxiety this summer in the UK with their children taking GCSE’s.

As a parent I was no different and wanted to share my experience. Exams are so different from when I took them. There are more, they take place over just a weeks and in my opinion changes to GCSE’s have been rushed without thinking about the effect on our children’s mental health. 

It seems that they were changed because employers were feeling that they were too easy.

As if my son didn’t have enough to occupy his mind, his future, should he do an apprenticeship, or should he go to college and not to mention the intense revision and preparation for exams.

I remember talking to other parents who also felt the same and expressed real concerns that their children would struggle to cope. They all said what happens if he or see is struggling I am not sure where to go or to talk to. We agreed that if I as a parent appear anxious how can I expect my child to cope.

Its fine just saying things will be OK and not to worry but I did worry, and I secretly just wanted the three weeks to pass as quickly as possible. 

My son decided that Xbox would be too much of a distraction and that it can be put away. I thought that this was mature and the right decision. He worked out a revision plan and we thought about his downtime, but I could still see anxiety and worry.

So I made a plan to make sure that he looked after his wellbeing. Checking in that he was alright and that he looked after his physical health and mental health. I was aware that it was important to take time out from the revision and as advised by school not to stop doing what he likes and change his routine. 

He went to the gym and out with his friends to maintain his relationships. We also planned things as a family as well in-between revision. This broke up the daily grind but there were still periods when I was concerned that he wouldn’t get through it.

I read articles in the news and spoke to school but talking to my son there were children who really struggled. He said that they were really not coping with their mental health. I worried when I heard about children crying, running out of the exam room and parents being called to take them home.

This can’t be right and is something that more research should be undertaken into the effects during exams as I can’t help thinking that we are setting them up for serious problems with their mental health further down the line.

I have suggestions on how to lessen the stress and anxiety during exam time.

Spread the exams over a longer period to give teenagers a bit of breathing space and allow them to take a break. If the exams were spread out there would be less intensity and time to do other things in their lives. I would also suggest there is less focus on the results and outcome and that children can just be children, without such a great amount of stress.

David Welham is a mental health writer from the UK

Mental health, work and the realities of freelancing: by Eleanor

 

mentalhealthquote

This article was voted for on my Facebook group last month but as always, there has been a lot going on and I wanted to give this one the time it deserved.

Mental health and work is a huge topic. Mental ill health affects peoples ability to work at times- depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other symptoms can stop us from working and disrupt careers. It is one of the biggest causes of sickness, with people being signed off work by their doctors- from stress or other mental health issues. However, some  people are able to manage their health symptoms and work through it. For me, and many others, I had to switch to self employment, in order to work more effectively.

I started off at uni studying English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths here in London, got a 2:1 degree and then worked for a year as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I decided then that it may not be for me and I applied to study a masters degree in Applied Theatre at the Royal Central drama school. This was amazing and eye opening- but I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks (possibly part of my bipolar disorder or just general..).

The anxiety attacks were debilitating for me at times- but I managed to get my Masters. However, I have often found that certain work places are far less forgiving of people with mental health issues- if they are still symptomatic.

I always thought that I would work as a teaching assistant and become a Reception teacher. I worked in several schools and I loved working with the children. I also tried working for a mental health charity. However, I found that my anxiety was getting worse and worse (despite taking medication and having therapy) and that the career just wasn’t working for my health.

So,  I decided to go self employed and become a freelance writer. The perils of freelancing can include: late payment of invoices from clients, having articles pulled at the last minute because the editor changes their mind, clients wanting you to write for free, waiting months for work to be published and some clients only paying on publication- so you don’t get a regular ‘salary’. Income is less stable, its harder to trust people and that you are often sending out pitch emails for writing work- only to get ignored, as editors are often busy with their in house team and work.

The pluses of freelancing: some regular gigs (Thank you Metro!), being featured in Glamour UK is a huge honour and in Happiful and Cosmopolitan/ Elle. I have written a lot this year and I am grateful every day for the editors who have taken a chance on me and commissioned my work.

However, its a balance. Yes working from home is great. Yes setting own hours is good. But, it means that income is less stable for sure. I have far less anxiety and panic working like this. Thats a major plus.

I often feel bad for not earning enough. Or because you have to develop a thick skin to deal with rejection.

In terms of mental health at work- there is SO much that needs to be done. Sickness records mean employees are still penalised, despite their genuine need for a mental health day. Each work place should be trained in signs to spot and have a mental health first aider. Some work places are disability friendly, but many just see you as a worker and if you have a mental illness, will only tolerate so much time off.

I don’t really know what to suggest if you are also in my position. In the UK, we have the benefits system which has been very important for me due to my illness. However, I would love to get to a stage where I can earn enough not to need it.

If you are struggling with your mental health at work, speak to a trusted colleague. HR will not always be supportive – it depends on the organisation, but don’t suffer alone. Just be aware that if you are off sick a lot, some companies will see you as unreliable. This may be 2018, but outdated attitudes at work still exist unfortunately.

There are positives and its important to know  there are good, wonderful people out there. I have met many. 

What is your experience?

Eleanor x

Finding Purpose- my journey to survive Anorexia. Guest post for World Mental Health Day by Spela Kranjec

spela1
(image: Spela Kranjec)


Please note; Trigger warning, this post discusses Anorexia and thoughts during it. Read with care.

Do you sometimes feel useless and unneeded? You wake up in the morning, lethargic with the thought that you truly don’t know why this upcoming day would be important? You watch other people, everyone with some task of their own, busy and running around with determination. How is it that the world is passing you by? “Is it my fault?” you ask yourself. You become bogged down with these thought, only making the situation worse. You unintentionally focus on the thought that you’re not worth anything! And you forget about everything that you’re good at, things that make life worth living.

You have destroyed yourself. You pushed yourself down into nothing. What’s worse is that you believe others see you as such, too. That’s why you need something that has a purpose, as otherwise you soon lose a will to live. The human mind is a very complex thing, and when it wants something it’s willing to take it by itself if you fail to provide it. But it takes the thing that it finds first. It doesn’t choose. As the whole body is surrounded by negativity, it latches on to that – and that’s how I developed anorexia.

Yes, I was a young girl who couldn’t find her way in this big world. I tried to fit in, but I was rejected. I thought I was intelligent, but I had to try much harder than others at school to get an A. I believed a good job was waiting for me, but was disappointed to discover that there are so many other people in greater need. I constantly trained, but never made the team. I looked at myself in the mirror, but I never became a beauty. I saved money when others were spending it, but they now probably have more than me.

In all my drive to become something, to be something, I started disappearing. And I wasn’t even aware of it. My mind convinced me that I would be appreciated, desired, only if I were thin. Very thin. As I was willing to do anything to be accepted, I started starving myself. Very quickly, scales become my only friend, and the only daily task was to exercise and reject food. The more I succeeded in this, the greater power I had over my own life. I was becoming something. Finally!

It didn’t take long before I heard the first comments, “Špela, you’re so thin!” My heart leaped! All my hunger and the dizziness during excessive exercise finally paid off. Obviously, it really was my own fault. Obviously, all I had to do was try harder. With this victory, I really couldn’t stop. So I kept going. I wanted to be even skinnier, just in case I ever gain back some weight, so that things didn’t change back to their old ways.

But as I never really defined this limit of losing weight, this “just in case”, I never knew when to stop. So I didn’t. There was one other boundary line. A sort of point of no return, before which I could still come back. Back to that old Špela, still knowing that I matter, that I belong somewhere. I’ve passed that point some time ago, and I wasn’t even sure that old Špela ever truly existed.

I was suddenly in a situation where everything was confusing and unclear. Before, I never belonged anywhere, then the world was in the palm of my hand, and now everything was falling apart, even more so than at the beginning. And I fell apart… Anorexia finally conquered me.

Now I faced a truly difficult task, which required from me a tremendous amount of mental and personality changes. A task that would be completed once the world stopped passing me by, and I would walk in step with the world. A task to find recovery.

spela2

I wrote a book about my mission to save myself. And for this book, my brother and I are launching a Kickstarter campaign, NOTICE ME: My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia.

Why? Because I know there are too many like me in this world, and this has to change. And because we want to show that we matter, that we have a mission in this world, even though I believed otherwise for many years.

Because I want to help you, I’m giving you opportunity, to start reading my book totally for free on this link: https://www.notice-me.net/free-chapter/.

Spela Kranjec is a mental health writer, documenting her 9 years of living with anorexia.

Suicide Prevention on Social media: Guest post by Dan Brown at MyTherapy for World Mental Health Day

helpme1

I recall reading a story last year about two teenage students from a town in Denver, both of whom lost their lives to suicide within two days of one-another.

In both cases, the students had made their intentions known on social media.

Countless similar stories can be found online. In many cases, such as the one above, people did attempt to reach out to those in need. In other cases, online cries for help were ignored or not taken seriously.

Teen Suicide Rates are Rising

Between 2010 and 2017, the number of teenage suicides in England and Wales increased by 67%.

In London, the figure is rising at an even greater rate, while a similar trend is occurring on the other side of the Atlantic, with the suicide rate of children and teenagers between 10 and 17 years old increasing by 70% in a decade since 2006.

The Role of Social Media in Suicide Prevention

While many believe social media is at least partially responsible for the rising rates of teenage suicides – due to matter such as cyber-bullying – it can be used as an effective tool for suicide prevention. This goes for any user of social media, not just teenagers.

The major platforms themselves are actively engaged in suicide prevention, but much of the onus is on individuals to respond should they encounter a post pertaining to suicide from a friend, family member, or anybody else.

Contacting the Emergency Services

First-and-foremost, you should not hesitate in contacting the emergency services if you believe someone’s life is in imminent danger. Any indications that someone is preparing to take their own life should be treated as a medical emergency. If need-be, contact closer friends or relatives of the person in question as well, to ensure help can arrive as quickly as possible.

In such situations, particularly if the person has made their intentions clear, the danger is obvious.

However, it is not always so easy to spot when a person needs help, or to differentiate between someone simply ‘venting’ after having a bad day and a more serious mental health issue.

The Warning Signs

Spotting the signs that a person may be contemplated suicide based on their social media activity can be difficult, given the absence of body language or tone of voice in many posts, especially those that are purely text rather than photos or videos.

However, there are some warning signs you can look out for.

  • Tone
    While tone of voice by not be present in a lot of social media posts, you will probably be familiar with the tone your friends and family members take on social media. A negative change in tone may be subtle or happen gradually over time, but it should not be overlooked. If you start to notice more posts that strike you as odd or out-of-character, it could be that person’s way of expressing negative emotions.
  • Signs of Anger or Lashing Out
    “Anger turned inward” is how Sigmund Freud described depression, a characterisation that is debated to this day. What seems beyond debate is that anger often coexists with depression, and that it can be outward as well as inward. Therefore, if you see someone reacting angrily or lashing out online, it could suggest they are struggling mentally. Again, this should be particularly alarming if it is out-of-character for that person.
  • Sad Posts
    Of course, sadness is the most obvious emotion to link with depression. When it comes to social media, this could be shown in sharing sad memes and pictures, or posts discrediting their own self-worth. Frequent posts of this nature could be a cry for help and should not be ignored.

 

It is also worth paying attention to the time of day the person is posting, as insomnia is a common symptom of depression. As such, regular posts late at night or in the early hours may be another warning sign.

Reaching Out to Someone You Are Concerned About

If you are concerned about someone’s wellbeing, raising your concerns with them is usually far from easy and must be done sensitively. However, many people struggle to talk about their mental wellbeing, be it through embarrassment, fear of ridicule, or any other reason perpetuated by the stigma surrounding the topic.

If you are the one to raise the issue, it can help break that barrier immediately.

There is also the myth that talking about suicide is a bad idea and could encourage a person to take their own life, which has contributed in making suicide taboo subject. Again, being the one to raise the topic, if appropriate, can help make a person feel more comfortable in discussing their concerns.

This article from Helpguide.org does a superb job of explaining the steps you can take in opening the dialogue.

Contacting Someone Closer to the Person

You do not have to be a close friend or family member to raise your concerns with a person. Given that we are discussing social media, you can even be the other side of the world.

However, you may ultimately decide that you are not the best person to speak directly to the individual you are concerned about.

That, however, does not mean you are unable to help.

Contacting someone closer to them – either physically or emotionally – clearly and considerately explaining why you are concerned, may encourage that person to bring the issue up. Perhaps they too have noticed the signs but were unsure whether to address them. Your message could be the push they need to do so.

You Can Help a Person in Need

It is quite likely that nothing in this article is new or surprising to you. However, many cries for help on social media go ignored. In the most tragic of cases, lives are needlessly lost. So, if you do find yourself in a situation where a friend or loved one is using social media in such a way, just remember: you can be the one to help. You may even save a life.

 

This article was contributed by Dan Brown from MyTherapy (free for iOS and Android).

How Meditation can improve our Mental health and wellbeing: Guest post by Jennifer Bennet

meditation

(image: Erriko Boccia at Unsplash )

Ahead of tomorrows World Mental Health Day, we are publishing articles focusing on our mental health.

Meditation has long been a tool used in mental health counselling and it is one that has been proven to be highly effective with coping with stress and anxiety as well as depression and other mental health issues. Medication is often a vital treatment for mental health issues, but meditation is also an ideal practice to integrate into a daily routine to help as well and the benefits of meditation are outstanding.

A great deal of our lives in general are spent lost in our thoughts and dealing with our personal feelings. Why not use that time for meditation instead of dwelling on negative thoughts and behaviours?

Besides the fact that taking time for meditation opens your mind to a little peace and quiet, there are so many benefits of meditating that can help mental health issues. Here are five of the best reasons to start meditating today so you can have a happier mind to help with mental health issues.

 

  1. Meditation helps clear your mind so that you can sleep better at night. A well-rested mind is better equipped to handle the stresses of life and keep a good reign on emotions during the waking hours.
  2. Meditation helps manage unhealthy behaviors by helping a person focus on viable solutions to problems. When we focus on just one issue and take time to carefully think about it in a positive way, it is easier to find a solution than it would be to randomly try numerous things to no avail. Mindful meditation allows a person to take time to delve deeply into a situation while focusing on how to resolve an issue wisely.
  3. The production of the hormone cortisol, which is known to weaken the immune system in the body, can be slowed down through meditation. When you have a better immune system, it’s easier to feel less stressed and be able to enjoy life better.
  4. Sitting down to meditate at least once every day can lead to having a better grasp on emotions. When you focus on objective ways to solve problems and face things in life, it is easier to control anger, depression and other emotions.
  5. Meditation helps keep your mind in the present instead of revolving to the past where you may have faced a bad relationship or other hardships. When you let go of the negative things that have a grasp onto your thought process, it is easier to move forward and face life with a renewed sense of self. This can have a profound impact on every aspect of your life including work, relationships and home.

 

How to Meditate

Some people believe that you must have scented candles, incense and soft music to meditate and while those things can certainly help ease your mind to help you find a peaceful calm, they are not at all required to find your way to inner peace and meditation. Here are some simple steps provided by the Taylor Benefits Insurance blog that you can follow to begin your journey into meditation and a firmer grasp on your own mental health and well-being.

 

Set a time

Let’s face it, when we don’t set an alarm to wake up in the morning it’s easy to oversleep and miss out on work and other important things in life. The same goes for meditation. This is an important step to take and once you decide to start meditating, it’s a good idea to try to set a time to do so each day. If you need to set a physical alarm, then get that alarm set and plan to sit down to meditate for at least 10 minutes each day. Consistency is key when you are meditating and it’s a good idea to make time for it every day. This will help keep your mind focused, so you can find your inner peace and start focusing on your problem-solving skills to lower your stress and find a little happiness that you may have forgotten about.

 

Breathe

When you meditate, take time to breathe deeply. From a siting position, sit straight and tall and breathe slowly but deeply. Be sure to wear clothing that won’t restrict breathing, so you can breathe freely during your meditation time.

 

Comfort is Key

No matter where you choose to meditate, try to make it as comfortable as possible. Whether you have a little space in your bedroom or even in the kitchen, pile up some comfy pillows or sit in your favorite chair and let yourself relax completely.

 

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Before you sit down to meditate, take time to choose one thing and only one thing to focus on during your meditation time. Meditation is not the time to let your mind wander in circles. When we can face one issue at a time and clear them from our mind, its easier to take steps to move forward with life with a sense of peace.

 

Pick Your Mantra and Focus

Now this is where you are going to take a slight step back and say, “What?” Something common to chant as a mantra is simply, “Om” which sounds like you are saying “Oooooooommmmmm” repeatedly. If that one does not work for you, then find a different mantra to chant during your meditation time. What you choose should help you feel relaxed.

While chanting your mantra, find a spot to fixate your eyes upon so you can focus clearly. This can be a candle if you have one, a spot on a wall or even a tiny flower placed across from you. The key is to stay focused throughout the meditation time.

While chanting your mantra, think positive thoughts such as visualising yourself winning a marathon (if you run), earning a promotion at work, completing a major assignment or whatever you feel you need to accomplish in your personal life.

Some people choose CD’s that have been prerecorded with slow, relaxing music on them. A great choice if you want to hear soft sounds would be a nature CD playing sounds of the forest or the ocean. Others prefer silence during meditation. Make some positive affirmation cards to place in your meditation area to help motivate you. These can include simple poetic phrases or even small sentences to help bring your inner peace. You could even listen to a prerecorded meditation CD or a YouTube video to help guide you throughout your meditation.

There is no set way to meditate and what works for one may not work for another. The most important thing is that you take time to meditate, get to know your true inner self and as you move forward you will soon find your way onto the healing path of inner peace and renewal as you learn more about yourself, your feelings and the strength of your own mind.  

 

Jennifer Bennet is a writer on wellbeing and an expert on meditation.

How Physio/ Physical Therapy can help you manage Stress and Anxiety: Guest post by Ashley Smith

massage1
(image: www.physiquemassagetherapy.com)

Stress and anxiety, which can lead to a large number of health problems, are common among people of all ages. The first step toward managing these problems is to change your attitude toward them. Most people think that these are common problems, so they do not pay much attention when it comes to managing them.

However, if you talk about long-term stress, it increases the risk of health conditions like obesity, memory impairment, trouble sleeping, autoimmune diseases, heart problems, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke, etc., so it’s essential to seek quality treatment to deal with them.

You can feel stressed due to several reasons including tough competition in the workplace, family problems, relationship issues, divorce, financial problems, and tiredness, etc. And if you fail to deal with it, you can face further complications.

 

Here are The Symptoms of Stress

-Mood swings and getting frustrated

-Difficulty in controlling your emotions

-The feeling of loneliness and low self-esteem

-Reduced energy levels

-Suffering from conditions like headaches, muscle tension, and chest pain

-Stomach problems like constipation or diarrhea

-Dry mouth and grinding teeth

-Difficulty focusing on your task

Experiencing negative thoughts

Loss of interest in the activities you used to love the most

Facing problem in relaxing and stabilizing your mood

 

A Brief Description of Anxiety

Anxiety, which is experienced by everyone at some point in their lives, can lead to a variety of other problems. When your anxiety progresses into an anxiety disorder, which is a mental health condition, it becomes harder to recover from it. Therefore, seeking quality treatment at the right time remains the only solution for you.

 

Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

-Avoiding situations, places, and things linked to a horrific event

-Experiencing problems in concentrating at work

-Losing interest in the activities of daily living

-Sleep problems and difficulty in staying calm

-Cold and sweaty hands and feet

-Increased heart rate and feeling nervousness

-Dry mouth and tense muscles

 

So, if you are someone who is living with high-level of stress and anxiety, it’s necessary that you seek proper treatment. Experts believe that physical (physio) therapy is the best way to manage stress and anxiety.

It’s a drug-free treatment for stress and anxiety; therefore, anyone can seek it. It means whether you are an adult above 40 or a 15-year old child if you are struggling with any of these problems, physical (physio) therapy could be a suitable treatment.

 

Here’s how a physical/ physio therapist helps you recover from stress and anxiety.

The best part of consulting a physical/ physio therapist is that they devote their time and resources to identify the underlying cause of your problem so that they can address it with the right therapy techniques.

For figuring out the actual cause of your stress and anxiety, they check your medical history and symptoms. Besides, they may also ask a variety of questions linked to your daily routine to arrive at a reliable diagnosis.

The kind of techniques that physical therapists use show a quick result when it comes to managing stress and anxiety.

For example, if you are experiencing stress due to work pressure or tight deadlines, then they will create a treatment plan that will consist of exercises that promote relaxation.

Massage therapy or therapeutic massage is one of the most effective treatments for relieving stress and anxiety. It not only helps in reducing stress and anxiety, but also improves circulation and lymphatic drainage, boosts mood, cures pain, minimizes inflammation and swelling, and accelerates the healing process.

Physical/ physio therapists use different types of massage therapy techniques such as pressure point massage, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and functional message to address individual problems.

According to Excel Sports & Physical Therapy, “Swedish massage is more gentle and targets more superficial tissues, perfect for anyone looking to relax and relieve mental as well as physical stress.

Your therapist may use a variety of aromatic oils while administering therapeutic massage to promote relaxation.

Apart from massage therapy, your physical therapist may also use manual therapy to address the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety.

A unique form of hands-on treatment, manual therapy helps in enhancing the ability of your body parts to function effectively. When your body parts work in harmony with each other, you naturally feel relaxed. While administering this technique, physical (physio) therapists apply pressure on your body through their hands, which feels quite relaxing.

It’s not only used by physical/ physio therapists but also by massage therapists, athletic trainers, and chiropractors, etc., to heal people struggling with pain, discomfort, stress, and anxiety.

So whether you are struggling with stress and anxiety or conditions like the neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain, etc., this therapy can bring a world of difference in your health.

This article was written by Ashley Smith, expert in this area of therapy.

The Social Anxiety Diaries by Eleanor

biglife

This blog started as a way for me to express my innermost thoughts and feelings, the state of my mental health and write it all out on the page. I would like to continue this and so asked people on my Facebook group what they would like to hear about.

This blog on my social anxiety was voted for and here it is.

I must start by saying that I am quite a social person and love my friends. A lot of us with social anxiety are. I have lived with this form of anxiety since I was about 18 years old. It essentially is an anxiety disorder that is hard to control- and where you begin to fear being around people, crowds, small talk and socialising for fear of being exposed or judged negatively. This has impacted how I work too and sometimes how often I leave the house.

My anxiety disorder started in my teen years because my unmedicated bipolar disorder led me to act in ways I didn’t recognise. I became hyper, everything was heightened and I wasn’t my usual self. And so the fear of acting like this again or being judged for it, was what triggered my social anxiety.

11 years later, a lot has changed for me for the better. I am finally on the right medication. I have a loving partner, family and friends. However, yes I do still have social anxiety. It does cause panic attacks, especially in the mornings and it can stop me from attending work or social events. .

It is frustrating to admit this. As I have been in a lot of very helpful therapy and I have learnt what coping mechanisms can help me- but they are often hard to implement mid panic. However, I do think I will always have a certain level of panic which will restrict certain parts of my life. This is why I work freelance and from home. Writing has helped me heal.

What I do know is on the good days, I make sure to keep busy and see people/ go out as the more I do this, the fear lessens. If I am feeling low, the anxiety rears its head too. When I am depressed, I can become slightly agoraphobic and won’t want to leave the house. Its something I have to monitor and work on. Set myself achievable goals eg walk down the road, see a friend, call someone etc.

Some of my friends have been so kind and understanding about living with this and having to cancel certain arrangements. There are times I  have to force myself into doing things although it takes so much energy and can also make me have more panic attacks so its a fine line. I have to do whats best for me and my mind. If it is spiralling into panic, the rational self finds it hard to drown it out.

In general, I am doing OK but I have to do what is best for me in order to manage my anxiety disorder. If that means a night in or less time seeing people then sometimes this is what is needed.

However, I will continue to be an anxiety warrior and do all I can to expose myself to any feared situations when possible. It takes lots of energy!

What have I tried to manage this?

– Group sessions on managing anxiety, meditation and journalling
– Talking therapy for 6 months (which worked) and CBT three times (which didn’t stop the panic attacks)
– Exposure therapies with those I love helping me

Do you have this and how do you cope?

Love, Eleanor x 

Why Writing therapy helps : Guest Post by Amy Hutson, Counsellor

writing therapy
(image: Amy Hutson)

I first started using writing therapy without really knowing what it was when I was having a tough time at school. There was something valuable about getting my thoughts down on to a page, instead of spinning around my head that helped to make sense of everything.

Since training as a counsellor many years later, I came across writing therapy and took some training in how to use it with clients. I’ve found it can be very powerful, alongside therapy or even on its own.

But what is writing therapy?

Writing therapy or expressive writing is basically writing as fast as you can without worrying about grammar or whether it makes sense. It might sound a bit odd, but it taps into your unconscious thoughts and can be cathartic writing things down, as well as helping to come up with answers to something you’ve been struggling with.

In the 1980s James W. Pennebaker was the first person to research how writing therapy helps and he set the challenge of asking people to write about their most traumatic experiences over four consecutive days. The results of the study were staggering, people felt much better both mentally and physically. So much so that people made less visits to the doctor at about half their usual rate, after the experiment.

So how can you use writing therapy?

There are lots of different techniques I use with clients, depending on what issue it is we’re discussing or what I think might be helpful to them. But here are a few things you could try at home and if it ever feels a bit too painful what you’re writing, you can stop at any time or write about something that feels safer.

Journalling

If you’ve never tried writing in a stream-of-conscious style of writing in a journal, I’d recommend starting here. Some people like to buy a lovely notebook and find a quiet space to write, sometimes at the beginning or at the end of the day. Then the idea is to write about whatever comes to mind. Even if you start by just writing ‘blah blah blah’, you will probably find something insightful will come up if you just keep writing and don’t stop to think. If writing every day feels too much, you could try writing whenever you feel you need to – it could be you’ve had a really rough day and want somewhere to vent or maybe something incredible happened and you want to record and remember it.

The unsent letter

The unsent letter can be powerful when you want to say something to someone but feel you can’t. It might be you’re angry or upset with someone and you’re holding on to those strong emotions, because you feel unable to share them. So, you simply write everything you want to say to this person in a letter without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings, because it’s not going to be sent. Writing it alone can really help, but it can also be used as a way of getting your thoughts together before confronting someone in a less emotional state.

If you want to take this one step further, you could write a letter back to yourself from the other person. The results can be surprising, as they can offer another perspective to the situation you might not have thought of.

Quick lists

Writing lists quickly and without editing them can be helpful and used in lots of different ways. Say you’re feeling anxious, you could start a list like:

I’m really anxious about:

  • My new job
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bad diet

Rather than just focusing on the anxiety, writing a list can sometimes help uncover what might be causing it, which you could then explore further in a journal, with a friend or a counsellor.

Another example of a quick list which can help if you’re feeling low is:

Three good things that happened today:

  • I got through the day at work despite little sleep
  • I met a friend for coffee
  • I went to the gym

Writing therapy really helps my clients and it could help you too!

 

Amy Hutson is a counsellor and writing therapist, who offers therapy in Hove and worldwide on Skype. For more details visit www.amyhutsoncounselling.co.uk

 

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

Family therapy 1
(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:

christine

Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in any form. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon. She blogs about marketing here. Follow more of her writing on Twitter @readwritechill.