5 Years, Anxiety and Keeping Well (by Eleanor)

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(image https://mandibelle16.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/poem-free-verse-hope-scarred-amwriting-poetry/:)

Thanks to all who voted for this article on Facebook and who have supported me these past 5 years and beyond. I love you all.

I cannot believe that this year (in March) is 5 years since I was hospitalised as a 25 year old for my bipolar disorder. For those of you who know my story, I became unwell with an episode of severe mania within a number of days, which featured psychosis-losing touch with reality and agitation. Its likely that my old medicines stopped working and I started believing delusions that werent real.

When I was hospitalised, I eventually went to the QE2 hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire (which has now been knocked down and now based in Radlett!). The support I had from the psychiatrist, nursing team, OTs, ward manager and all the staff was incredible and they   really believed that I would get well again. I cannot have been easy to deal with, due to the mania and the fact I was pacing around all the time, singing and in my own little world. Their kindness and help really helped me recover properly- as did the visits and love from family and friends.

I spent 4 months as an inpatient at Welwyn and then a further 4 months in outpatient treatment at a Day Hospital unit in Watford. The day hospital was very beneficial to me and helped me to start on my new medication and process all that had happened. I had help from a very special care coordinator and support worker once I had been discharged from day hospital. My care coordinator helped me so much and was so kind and caring.

Recovery is never linear and its something I have to work at every single day. There will always be life stresses that can trigger my anxiety and depression (and potentially a lesser manic episode, although the mania hasn’t happened yet thank g-d). I still struggle with my anxiety disorder and panic attacks in the mornings sometimes. I believe this is as a result of all the trauma that is involved with being sectioned, being an inpatient and having to rebuild my life after. I had social anxiety anyway, as part of the depressive part of the bipolar, but I still believe that even though I have had talking therapy, that my brain is still processing the trauma. Mental health wards are not fun places to live, as you can imagine and despite the staff trying to make it as calm as possible.

I will get triggered with my panic by certain things- like social events or job interviews and I may not always know fully why- it could be subconscious, or I realise it after. I am still rebuilding my self esteem and the love for myself. Anyone who goes through a severe episode of mental illness will tell you that its hard to separate the illness from yourself. Bipolar from Eleanor.

I have incredible friends, my fiance and family who can separate it. Yet, there are times where we all don’t feel good enough. Where  we want to hide even though we are capable of more than we know.

So in these 5 years I have been learning to love me, to think and act on hope, recovery and the future. I have learnt to build self care tools and relaxation into my days if I feel overwhelmed or to stop me from getting too stressed. I have been blessed to have found my life partner and developed my career- although my illness has put my career on hold many times and I have had to reinvent myself. However, I am starting slowly to find the light in the dark.

This is where the phrase ‘Be Ur Own Light’ comes from- to find the inner strength to carry on.

There have been many times when I have wanted to give up. Where I have been hurting and have felt inadequate. When I felt no one would want to date me  or that I wasn’t good enough for a career. Because how could I tell people what had happened to me without them thinking I was a ‘fruitloop’? That was my logic.

Thats why I started to write. I write to heal. I write to explain, educate and battle stigma. I write to make sense of my own mind. I write as a job but also to make a difference in the world and I hope I will do that through my book and blogs/ articles.

In the past 5 years, aside from work and my mental health advocacy, I have been travelling again which always brings me joy. I have been to Rome (Italy) , Prague (Czech Republic), Madeira (with Charlotte), Israel (with Rob), Portugal and Romania. I have stayed at my Dads and explored the Cotswolds and gone on holiday to the beach at Broadstairs with Anna and family. I have seen theatre shows, amazing movies and read some fantastic books. I have found a life partner. I have secured a book deal, volunteered for Jami to launch their mental health shabbat, worked with the Judith Trust and my blog is growing. Being published in Glamour, Metro, Happiful, the Telegraph and the Jewish News were major highlights and finding an incredibly supportive community on Twitter too.

Life is not all hard and sad. Yes, there are times when I have found it a nightmare with my anxiety disorder. I am 100% still a work in progress- recovery isnt easy.

I have had to work on my self esteem in therapy. I have had 6 months of psychodynamic therapy. I read self help books. I should exercise and go out more (working on this).

But:

I am not severely depressed or manic. I can hold down part time work, often from home. These 5 years have taught me that I may always have some degree of anxiety- particularly about past events which effect how I react currently. I need to learn how to heal from this and I hope in time I will.

If you had told me 5 years ago I would be writing a book of my life story and been published in national newspapers I would have laughed at you. I am getting married in July and I can’t wait (and also would have probably laughed at you too).

Anxiety is horrible by the way. Your heart races, you get flooded with adrenaline, you fixate on the fear and want it to go away. You feel sweaty and clammy and you may shake. You need to rush to the toilet. It stops you from sleeping. It stops you from living your best life. So I don’t want to trivialise it here. Its a struggle at times and its disruptive to life.

The pain of anxiety, depression and bipolar is matched by my hope and my belief that I will still achieve despite it. Yes there will be difficulties and bumps along the way, but today I am choosing to look towards the sun. 

          

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2018 Round up: The year that has been: New Year by Eleanor

 

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When I look back at this year, 2018, I don’t fully know where to start. It has been one of the most meaningful, eventful, and wonderful years of my life so far, but there have also been sad times.

Outside of work, this year was a very special one as back in April, my fiance Robert proposed to me at the Shard, overlooking London. I said yes and 8 months later we are in the middle of wedding planning and planning for our future (and I found my wedding dress!). The proposal was the most amazing thing to happen this year. Also, two of my best friends got engaged and for one we were involved in the proposal and got to see him propose so that was fantastic!  I am looking forward to the weddings 🙂 We also celebrated other friends 30th birthdays, engagements and weddings this year as well as many births of their children which was so wonderful.

Sadly this year, we lost my beloved Grandma in June to Parkinsons disease and I miss her every single day- we were very close.  A month ago, my Grandpa (on the other side of family) passed away after a short battle with cancer, but I was able to fly to Portugal where he lived and see him before he passed and give him a hug, so that was very important. There is also family illness occurring, my father in law to be is very unwell with cancer and mid treatment- and this is very hard for us all but trying to be a positive as possible!

Back in February, My Dad and I went to Romania to the town of Iasi, to explore where our ancestors lived. There was a lot of snow and walking around palaces and churches and finding the synagogues. When we came back, we discovered that my Great grandpas sister and family died in Moldova across the border, at the hands of the Nazis (via the Yad Vashem online database) A very bittersweet trip but we were pleased to see Iasi.

In happier news, after celebrating our engagement with those we love, in July, my fiance Rob and I went on holiday to Israel which was really wonderful. We stayed with close friends and family and also in hotels and had a really special, meaningful, fun and sunshine filled trip! A personal highlight – the swimming pool at the InterContinental hotel in Tel Aviv and of course, walking through the Old City while sipping iced coffee (it was so hot) and visiting the Kotel. When we came back, we spent a weekend in the Cotswolds at my dad with family- a lovely escape. This year too, I also read some great books (like Michelle Obamas autobiography) and watched some fab films/ theatre shows.

In July, I celebrated my 30th birthday with friends and family (thanks Katie for my delicious birthday cake) and then this December, we celebrated Robs 30th birthday at London Zoo light trail.

This year work wise, has been a blessing- I managed (somehow) to secure a book deal which has been a lifelong dream and am working with the fab team at Trigger Publishing and my patient editor Stephanie- thanks to her, Katie and James for their support as I continue to tap away at my keyboard.

Before 2018 began I was in touch with Naomi Greenaway at the Telegraph (Stella Magazine). Thank you Naomi for helping me to tell and share my story in a sensitive way. It was an honour for me to be featured online at the Telegraph and for my story to reach new readers.

Back in January, I met a wonderful editor on Twitter, Yvette Caster, who was looking for new writers for Metro Blogs (as it was then). She looked at this here blog after I sent her a pitch email and commissioned me to write my first ever article for Metro.co.uk on mental health, weight gain and medication. From there, she and her colleagues continued to commission me to write and when she and they left in the summer, I have continued to pitch articles and be published. Thank you to Ellen Scott, Aimee Meade and the current team at Metro too. Being published online by Metro has been an amazing journey and I am proud to write for them on lifestyle topics and mental health, my favourites this year being about the Royal wedding, homelessness and mental health and sharing my Grandpas story.

Thanks also to Bianca London for commissioning my two Glamour articles, this was another amazing bucket list dream ticked. The one on dating and mental illness, bipolar and how I met my fiance (when I wrote the article, he was my boyfriend) was something very close to my heart and it was a genuine honour to be featured in a magazine I had a read as a teenager and one of the biggest womens magazines in the UK. Still can’t believe it.

Thanks to Rebecca Thair, editor of first ever mental health magazine, Happiful magazine for not only being first to publish my story with bipolar back in January (which was so important to me) but also publishing my later articles on social anxiety and a guide to bipolar. I love working with you and the Happiful team and hope to write more for you.  Thanks also to Sonja at UIO Podcast and Sarah Cardwell for interviewing me.

Thanks to Francine Wolficz, Richard Ferrer and Jack Mendel at the Jewish News for all the articles and positive support of my mental health work in and outside of the Jewish community this year.  And to Rabbi Ari Kayser at Aish for including my story in Perspectives Magazine with the Jewish Weekly newspaper.

Thanks to writer Olivia Blair at Cosmopolitan/ Hearst for featuring my thoughts on bipolar in several articles which were also published across Hearst publications like Elle Magazine, Prima Magazine and Netdoctor.co.uk . Thanks also to the team at Refinery 29 for featuring me in an article on Seasonal affective disorder and to the fantastic charity No Panic for publishing my personal story with bipolar disorder.

This year I was also a shortlisted finalist for a UK Blog Award for the Health and Social Care Category  in March (thank you Lauren and team)  and invited to come to the Mind Media Awards as a highly commended journalist in my category. (This was incredibly magical).

Going to the Mind Media Awards in November with my Dad at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and hearing peoples stories of mental health across the UK media was just incredible. It was also a fun night of celebrity spotting- Fearne Cotton, Bryony Gordon, Dame Kelly Holmes, Kim-Joy from Bake Off, Stacey Solomon and Loose Women team, Frankie Bridge and many more. Stephen Fry presented the awards and was just remarkable, humble and funny as always. I was so pleased I managed to attend, it was a privilege to meet people. I met Yvette, Ellen and their producer at Mentally Yours podcast and fellow blogger Katie Conibear. My Dad and I were honoured to attend.

This blog has been a joy at times alongside the hard work. Thank you to all my guest bloggers and all sending submissions- you’ll get a proper individual thank you at our 3rd anniversary in March, but I couldn’t run the blog without your articles and careful attention. Thanks To Vuelio and Feedspot for awards too. Heres to a 2019, our third year of Be Ur Own Light! Thanks also to my Twitter followers who make it so easy for me to share thoughts and ideas with them- and for all the online friendships I have made- you know who you are!

This year has been hard at times but there has been SO much beauty and I feel so grateful and thankful for it all. My mental health has taken a hit at times, but I have found a really good therapist for talking therapy- who has helped me so much and I have also spoken to my GP. Its OK to reach out for support. Thankfully I have a good support network.  I have been a little more anxious and battling mild depression but I am slowly getting better again and starting to see the light :).

I just want to wish you all a happy and healthy new year 2019- this will be the year that I please God get married and my best friend Katie (as well as my fiances cousin too!). May it be a year of better health, wellness and joy for us all. And heres to keep fighting stigma!

May the new year be one of dreams coming to fruition and love and laughter.

Love always and thank you for reading,

Eleanor x 

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

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(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