Category Archives: Time to Change

Living with Bipolar Disorder: my True story- for Counselling Directory Website

elliesegall

Be Ur Own Light author Eleanor tells her story for Counselling Directory. 

Article: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/experience_236.html

I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder at just 16 years old. I had been admitted to hospital after a year of depressive and anxious episodes, followed by a hypomanic episode (a lesser episode of mania). People with bipolar have a mood disorder which means our moods can become extreme and oscillate between low and high.

After a year of not understanding what was happening, I finally came to accept the diagnosis. You see, bipolar runs in my family. There is evidence it can be genetic but, as I was so young, no one suspected that my depression and hypomania could be bipolar disorder. I was hospitalised as a teenager in 2004 due to a mixed state of depression and psychosis (where your mind loses touch with reality).

Luckily, with medication and support, I was able to live a fairly ‘normal’ life for several years. Despite having to go down a year at school, I made it to University and completed a Bachelors and Masters degree. I went travelling with friends to India and Ghana, regularly took my medication – mood stabilisers and antidepressants – and was supported by various psychiatrists and therapists, as well as my wonderful family and friends.

But the trauma of what I went through caused an increase in my anxiety levels and I developed social anxiety, fearing what others thought of me. I also became slightly agoraphobic and suffered from panic attacks. Bipolar is such a complex disorder and sometimes anxiety can be a part of the depressive side of the illness.

Over time, I believe that my main medication stopped working. This coupled with several life events, meant I became unwell fast. In 2013, I began to sink into a very low depressive state which led to suicidal thinking. I became very unwell, but supported by my family and upped dosages of medicine, I got better again. However, this was short lived.

In 2014, I spiralled into the worst manic episode of my life. I had racing thoughts and pressured speech, was very fearful of those around me and began to experience delusions (false beliefs about the world). I was incredibly vulnerable and unwell. Unfortunately, the episode happened very quickly and although I hadn’t been in hospital for 10 years, suddenly I found myself there, waiting to be treated.

Being in hospital this time was hard; it took a while for the psychiatry team to bring me down from the manic state. I was in hospital for four months, attending therapy groups (I loved art therapy) and working with occupational therapists, nurses and a wonderful psychiatrist who believed I would get well again.

I did get better again in time. I had a further four months of support when I left hospital, where I was put on the correct mood stabiliser for me – Lithium – which has helped keep the moods at bay. I attended day therapy sessions on anxiety management, recovery, art and social groups and I slowly came out of my shell again. I was in shock and quite traumatised at what had happened to me. However, over time and with support, I accepted it and began to recover.

Since that difficult time, I have worked for and volunteered with mental health charities and supported communal projects. I also started my blog, Be Ur Own Light, in 2016 to explain to family and friends about my mental health. It has been read worldwide and its aim is to tackle mental health stigma and share real-life stories.

I also began to write for the Huffington Post UK, Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change and Bipolar UK, amongst others. Writing is therapy for me.

My message would be that the right medical team, coupled with support networks, psychotherapy, medication and doing things you love to do, can help you feel much better and find recovery. I, like so many with mental health issues, am still a work in progress but to reach any form of recovery is a big milestone and I will fight to remain well. You can too.

Advertisements

Shame and Psychosis article for Time to Change

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

timechange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Post by Juno Medical: 9 Things People with Anxiety Disorders Would Rather not Hear You Say

anxiety1

Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders. 1 in 12 people suffers from anxiety globally, and women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety.

If you feel overwhelmed by the behaviour of a person with anxiety, try to put yourself in their shoes, and show understanding, not stigma.

For more see www.junomedical.com

 

Be Ur Own Light is One year old!

one1

I can’t believe my blog, Be Ur Own Light – started on March 1, 2016 is 1 year old today.

My journey with blogging has been so exciting, inspiring and wonderful. It has reached every part of the world and a huge number of countries in UK, Europe, USA, Canada and South America, China, India and other Asian countries, Africa, the Middle East and Australasia. It is such a blessing to be read world wide!

When I began this blog it was a diary to explain and help recover from my anxiety disorder. However, over time it has evolved into so much more!

As I grew in confidence and found other kindred spirits in my writing, I began to write for other organisations and also receive and upload guest posts on mental health topics.

This year I have written blogs for Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change, Bipolar UK, Self Harm UK, Phobia Support Forum, Counsellors Cafe, Monologues Project and the Bossing It! Academy. I have written 4 blogs for Rethink and have loved collaborating with each charity and organisation. Special mention to Louie Rodrigues at Rethink.

I have also received amazing guest posts from these wonderful charities and writers who shared their hearts in order to battle stigma. Thank you:

– Breathe Life
-Ashley Owens at Generally Anxious
– ISMA stress management
– Stephanie at Making Time for Me
– Adar (PTSD)
– Deepdene Care
– Joshua (bipolar article)
– Michael J Russ
-Richie at Live Your Now
– Megan at the Manic Years
– Quite Great Music psychotherapy
-Lystia Putranto and Karina Ramos
-Eugene Farrell at AXA PPP
-Marcus at Psychsi
– Paradigm Centre San Francisco

I can’t wait to receive more guest submissions over time!

In the past year Be Ur Own Light has grown into a #lighttribe of thousands. On Twitter we are now 2,287 , Facebook 265 of my friends and family, Instagram is 2156,  and we have 127 dedicated WordPress followers. Thank you to each and every one of you for following, commenting, sharing and reading and for helping fight stigma through talking..

This blog has also raised money for Jami mental health charity and I am excited to be starting work for Jami soon.

Its been an incredible year of sharing, writing and breaking down barriers. Its OK to talk about mental illness and mental health. Its alright to feel lost or broken or ill. Seek support for recovery and you can get better. You are not alone.

With gratitude and love on our first birthday 

Surviving Depression and Suicidal thoughts: a blog for Rethink Mental Illness

beyourownlight
https://www.rethink.org/news-views/2016/12/surviving-depression-and-suicidal-thoughts

Thank you to Rethink for publishing my blog under a pseudonym, for the graphic and sharing my story of hope over adversity.

Rose is the blogger behind Be Your Own Light blog, which provides great articles about living with mental illness, from both herself and guest bloggers. Below she talks to us about how she has dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts. 

When I was 15 years old, I experienced my first depressive episode. I felt unable to leave the house or see friends as the depression brought about an increase in anxiety . My parents looked after me as best they could and I was taken to see an adolescent psychiatrist who put me on anti depressants coupled with therapy. I gradually got better again with time and managed to do well in my exams.

I was eventually hospitalised voluntarily after more periods of illness and at 16 years old, diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. Understandably, the diagnosis changed my life. I am now 28 and have been taking medication since then. Not long ago, I survived a suicidal depression that I had in the winter of 2013, 6 months before I went into hospital.

At this time, It was apparent that for several years my medication was not controlling my low moods. I would get really depressed very quickly, feel overly emotional when stressed and felt like I had to hide myself away. I began sleeping too much to escape the inner turmoil and to get respite. Sleep became my balm and escape.

However, it was when I began sleeping from 9-5 pm with a quick break for food, not getting washed and dressed or answering my phone and not being able to get in to work, that the psychiatrist was called to the house to see me.

I remember crying and crying- in such pain in my mind. For me, the depression felt so chemical- I knew I needed to change my medication but I didn’t know why everything felt like ‘wading through treacle’. Why couldn’t I find the joy in life anymore, I asked myself? I just couldn’t cope with the painful negative thoughts and feelings and started thinking irrationally that I would be better off not here in the world.

These suicidal thoughts were extremely challenging to deal with.  I was so scared by them that I would tell my parents constantly how I was feeling. I wanted to get the thoughts out my head and so telling people became my salvation- I believe if I had bottled it up, I may not be here today.

Eventually, over time, my medical team worked together to put me on the right  medication- Lithium. The Lithium has changed and saved my life. My brain chemistry is stable, I no longer feel suicidal or depressed. I get up early in the morning and I want to do things with my day. This took a long time but to anyone feeling suicidal- please reach for help.

You can get better- it is your brain playing tricks on you with an illness. I want to spread a message of hope, recovery and survival- life can be dark but if you hold on there is hope. 

Surviving mental illness while practising Judaism

jewish1

This post is being dedicated to my friend Helen Brown who wanted to know how being an Orthodox Jewish woman works and is compatible with having a mental illness. How supportive were the Jewish community when I was ill and what does Judaism mean to me?

So:

Let me start by saying that I was born into Judaism and raised Jewish, in a Modern Orthodox, United Synagogue Household- meaning I keep Kosher, rest on the Sabbath and observe all the festivals, learn and pray when I can. I also practise ‘tzniut’- dressing modestly and endeavour to live my life with the positive values of the Torah (Old Testament) bridging modern society .  I have a great love for and appreciation of Judaism and I have found that it has kept me going through many difficult times.

Prayer in particular has had a very important resonance in my story. When I was ill in hospital with a bipolar episode two years ago, my friend brought me a tehillim prayer book- the Book of Psalms. Another friend brought me a book of strengthening hopeful quotes from Rabbi Nachman. Every day, I prayed to God to release me from my illness, to give me strength and to give me a full and complete recovery. I prayed that the Doctors and nurses would support and help me, and they did. I found freedom through my religion, even if I couldn’t always understand why this particular test was in my life. My friends also lit candles on the Sabbath with a prayer that I would get better and prayed for me.

The support from the Jewish community during this time was incredible. Rabbis visited me with warm chicken soup, cakes, wisdom, advice and prayers. Friends and family rallied round to visit and bring me food, soft toys, cards and themselves. The kindness was immense and never will be forgotten.

However, there is still a stigma against mental illness in the Jewish community, as there is in most other communities.  When I first became ill at 16, I was ridiculed my many who did not understand the meaning of a bipolar manic episode. To this day, I believe there is a woeful misunderstanding and knowledge of psychosis- delusions or hallucinations. There is also a stigma when looking for a marriage partner, if using a matchmaker. I was taught by many to keep quiet about my illness and I still do not readily give the information unless it will help someone else.

Not everyone understands medication or psychotherapy and I am on a mission to educate everyone so the stigma can fall. I am a Modern Orthodox Jewish woman.  This means I love God and want to live by His laws, whilst enjoying the modern world of theatre, books, cinema and culture too.

I believe that I was ill for a reason, whether its brain chemistry, a test or both. What I do know is that the community now is changing- there is much more support and kindness.

We only have to look at the new Jami (Jewish Association of Mental Illness) Head Room Café (a social enterprise cafe raising money for the charity) to see that. The funding and support Jami is getting and its new prominence.

There is still more to do, but we as Jews (and non Jews) have a duty to support anyone who is ill- whether its in the mind or the body.

The Counsellors Cafe Blog Collaboration: Social Anxiety- I will get There

sunrise1
(image:google images)

Hi everyone,

I am delighted to announce a collaboration with the wonderful people (Dionne and Victoria) at The Counsellors Cafe. Counsellors cafe is a community for people to share articles and knowledge about their mental health, and links therapists and sufferers.

I have written a blog for them on living with social anxiety which was published yesterday!

I wrote this piece  on social anxiety so I can write with my heart without feeling ashamed and can share what it is like to live with mental ill health at times. This is something that has been a part of my life since I was 15 years old and I will be 28 this year. It doesn’t feel like 13 years have passed since I first got sick, but its true that time definitely passes quickly. ‘

 You can read it here and at their website:  http://www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk/single-post/2016/11/01/I-Will-Get-There

For more see: http://www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk/

#beurownlight