We are a Vuelio Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog! 2018 Award

Today I got an email from the lovely people at Vuelio to say they have listed us as Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog.

We are number 8, alongside some incredible blogs and organisations such as the Mental Elf and Mental Health Foundation as well as blogger friends of mine- check them all out .

Thanks so much Vuelio! This award is important as it is about being influential in our industry so am so happy to recieve it.

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See the list here: https://www.vuelio.com/uk/social-media-index/mental-health-blogs-uk-top-10/

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Coping with the lows and Celebrating the highs by Eleanor

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(image: the chic life)

I have been wanting to write about everything for the past week but felt like I have been swept up into a hurricane. There has been a lot going on- some good, but a lot of bad in my life and I have been trying to process it all.

As most of you know, my article on bipolar was published in the Telegraph with thanks to an amazing editor who believed in my story. The Telegraph is a high profile newspaper here in the UK and this was a big platform for my story to be given. So I am grateful. I will put the link to it in the articles tab soon.

I received many positive messages from people with bipolar and psychosis- who could see themselves in my experience and were pleased and appreciative that I shared it. Also those who are carers for people with it got in touch too. I had a lot of support from friends and family, which was important because I started to feel quite vulnerable in revealing so much of what had happened back in 2014 when I was hospitalised. It isn’t easy- even though I want to share it to help people.

As well as the positives, I did receive a few unwanted and negative messages- mainly from ignorant people who don’t know me. I don’t want to give the Trolls any air time here, except to say that the Telegraph were fantastic and stepped in. The comments that were sent weren’t nice but it is a risk when  revealing such a complex mental illness to the world- its an emotive topic and some people can be cruel too. However, the positives outweighed the negatives.

My article was published when I was in Portugal visiting my grandparents with my Dad, Aunt and Uncle so having them  around to process it all was really helpful. Portugal was lovely to have the family time but hard to see my Grandpa unwell, though I was so pleased I got to see him. We also went to a very beautiful beach at Sesimbra, near Lisbon which was good to get some sun in November!

I have two close family members who are unwell at the moment with serious illnesses. As such with all the pressure of it all, I am finding that my mood is dipping and I have to practise a lot of self care- sleeping, reading, pacing myself. It could be that its approaching winter and less light, but I am feeling mildly depressed at times and sleeping more in the mornings, so I am watching my mood and trying to cope as best I can.

If it continues for a long period, I may see the doctor or my counsellor but I think its a reaction to everything happening.

Yesterday I received some really good news– which I will share in a few weeks time. I am so grateful for all the good happening and still planning for my wedding which is something positive to focus on too. Thank you to everyone who has been and continues to be there.

If you are feeling like me right now, a bit low/ depressed, tell people you trust. Don’t keep it in. Remember it can pass. And get support and help if you need it. My fiance, friends and family are helpful to me- confide in someone you can talk too.

I am trying to focus on the positives and celebrate the highs, while dealing with the lows. Thats life I think. Its not always easy but I will get there and so will you if you feel the same.

Eleanor x 

 

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

 

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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

The Social Anxiety Diaries by Eleanor

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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

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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