Winter blues, Depression and Social anxiety by Eleanor

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(image : http://www.caring-crate.com)

In the past few weeks, I have found that all I want to do is stay inside, under a cosy blanket in my little nook on the couch, reading lots of good books or watching something good on TV (by good I mean my favourite reality shows at this time of year!). I have been practising a lot of self care activities as I havn’t been feeling at my strongest or happiest this week. I think I may have seasonal depression but I am not sure if its the winter blues – probably the winter lack of light combined with my bipolar brain chemistry.

Sometimes I  will phone or whatsapp my friends, I will take long bubble baths and sing in the tub (feeling like some kind of surreal movie like Amelie) , I have discovered a new love for the Body Shop seaweed clay facial mask (it leaves my skin so soft and moisturised and helps my spots). I have wrapped myself in my pink, Beauty and the Beast blanket (without make up on) and just enjoyed the freedom of being. Of resting and being in the moment. Of being more mindful.

There have been times when this has become a bad thing. I’ve spent several nights this week on my own and there have been days where my anxiety has increased and I havn’t wanted to go outside. This is because its cold and dark (winter here in England), I don’t want to interact with random people or I just don’t want to be out in this weather when I could be warm and cosy at home.  I am an introvert (who also loves people). My introvert side craves time on my own but this is also part of my social anxiety.

However, every anxiety win.. like going to a gig in Holborn with my Dad and using the Tube (I forgot about the lack of personal space) or hanging out with my fiance or friends without cancelling on them, has been good. In truth though, I have had to cancel a lot of plans this week and luckily have very understanding people in my life. I hate letting people down but sometimes I can’t cope- the adrenaline pumps and things feel too much for me, too overwhelming.

I have felt overwhelmed and mildly depressed this week. However, I am coming to the slow realisation that this is OK. Its alright to struggle and to want human contact but also to find it overwhelming too.

I do need to get more fresh air though, exercise more and be healthier. Part of the lure of being inside is that its relaxing and ‘safer’ but the outside world is not as scary as my head decides it is when its cold and dark in winter.

I think I have mild seasonal depression- so its really important I do all I can to work with that and go outside my comfort zone- when all I really want is to be a doormouse surrounded by those I love and sometimes curled up on my own!

I am going to start talking therapy again soon as theres been a lot of stressful things going on, so hopefully that will help too.

How do you help your seasonal depression?

  Eleanor x

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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/

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

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(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

Copy of my Mask: (On Depression): Guest poem by ‘N’

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(image: Sweety Texts)

 

This is a poem/ thoughts written by a guest poster with depression who wanted to share their thoughts. Please read with care as it discusses exactly what depression is like 

 

When everyone sees rainbows and flowers, I am trapped, suffocating in the darkness, alone.

As everyone laughs and smiles, I pull my mask, over my face, over my soul, yet again.

My mask is what I hide behind, and shield everyone else from the unbearable dark cloud that follows me everywhere.

My hair hasn’t been washed in a week, and I don’t have the energy to shower. My teeth aren’t brushed and my house is a mess. Everyday, I sit, in the darkness, alone. This feeling is crippling.

It slowly sucks the life out of me, and I fear the day my eyes no longer open.

I hide behind my mask, because the truth is just too scary for most, that the demons haunt me all day and everyday, and suck my soul to shreds.

I hide behind my mask because it’s easier than hearing how I am in a rut, or mind over matter.

I hide behind my mask because it makes me the same as all the other moms. It makes me more relatable. It gives me the illusion that I am not alone.

I am careful to put my mask on each and everyday, and while I carefully balance it, I am being beaten down by the darkness that follows me.

My smile isn’t real, nor is my laugh.

Deep inside when I remove my mask, the clouds take over and it’s simply too much to bear.

Demons swirl around faster and faster, weighing heavily on my body, crippling me until I can no longer move.

I lay numb, soulless, and alone.

And my depression has won again.

 

N

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

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(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.

Gay Conversion Therapy in America and its toll on Mental Health by Nick Rudow

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(image: VectorStock)


In May of this year, Maryland became the 11th state in the USA to ban gay conversion therapy, a tactic often used by religious organizations to try to alter an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. While this news is comforting to many LGBTQ youth, gay conversion therapy is still legal and practiced in many states across the nation. Two new film releases this year, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” and “Boy Erased,” are tackling this subject in authentic ways and bringing to light a practice that’s sadly as relevant as ever.

Its Toll on Mental Health

Often referred to as “reparative therapy,” gay conversion therapy has shown to exert a tremendous toll on a person’s mental health and lead them to depression and suicide. Conversion therapy is typically brought on by the parents of the individual, and they’re forced into it as a form of “punishment” for their sexuality. Research conducted at San Francisco State University found that LGBTQ youth who were rejected by their parents because of their sexual orientation were more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide.

Without the acceptance of their parents, LGBTQ youth have shown to develop self-hatred and remorse toward themselves, and gay conversion therapy perpetuates these feelings. Using methods such as inducing nausea, inflicting shame and even giving electric shocks to the individual, therapists attempt to “cure” them of their same-sex attraction and “correct” their behavior.

When LGBTQ teens are told they’re “sick” and need to be “saved” because of their sexuality, their mental health is significantly impacted. Counseling experts from Rutgers found “when language that is biased against LGBT individuals is used on a routine basis, it can have a cumulative effect that is damaging.”

 

Where We’re Seeing It Today

The history of gay conversion therapy spans centuries, with some psychiatrists using hypnosis to try to treat their LGBTQ paitents’ sexuality during the 18th century. But with the popularization of behavioral therapies in the 1960s and ‘70s, psychologists began coming up with new and frightening methods to try and “cure” someone’s homosexuality.

During the early 1970s, a psychologist named George Rekers published an article touting his treatments of homosexual patients as successful and revolutionary and used a 5-year-old patient of his as an example. The child, Kirk Murphy, showed stereotypically feminine traits, and his parents sent him to Rekers to “prevent” him from being a homosexual. Even though Rekers said it was a success, Murphy developed severe psychological distress and, as a gay adult, died by suicide at the age of 38.

With so many health and psychology organizations refuting gay conversion therapy practices, why is it still legal in a majority of states around the country and still practiced by religious groups every day?

The answer may lie in the negative way some religious communities view homosexuality and the amount of LGBTQ youth coming from anti-gay households. There are still several churches prohibiting same-sex marriage in the U.S. and many LGBT teens are left homeless after being kicked out of the house by their parents. Discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community occurs daily in America, with the LGBTQ murder rate having increased by 90 percent last year. Eighty-eight LGBTQ homicides were reported between 2012 and 2015, according to research from Bradley University.

Even with gay conversion therapy organizations being banned in several states, many are still being operated around the USA. 

 

How We Can Do Better

According to researchers from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 teens ages 13 to 17 will undergo conversion therapy in an attempt to change their sexual orientation. It’s vital that parents offer support and love to their children and never subject them to harmful gay conversion therapy treatments. There are several mental health resources available to LGBT youth such as The Trevor Project and services for those struggling with unsupportive families such as the GLBT National Hotline.

To all those suffering out there with feelings of worthlessness and self-hate, know that you’re not alone and there are people out there who can help you restore a positive outlook on life. No LGBTQ person should live in shame because of their sexuality or gender identity, and we need to recognize that and ban gay conversion therapy nationwide.

 
This article is by writer and activist Nick Rudow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you doing? Let me know below!

Love,

Eleanor

Mindfulness and Unplugging: Digital Detox

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(image: Gizmodo)

In my life, I have found that what is truly important is having time away from work, fears, worries, busy-ness in general and unplugging. If I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious or like things are too much, I take an hour or two in the week (and sometimes a day at weekends) to really, properly switch off.

I love social media and  I am always checking my email but sometimes its really good not to have to answer emails or mindlessly scroll through feeds. I love Instagram, but it is an excellent distraction from what I probably should be doing too!

Every Saturday in the Jewish world is Shabbat, the sabbath. I have a complete digital detox and find that I am a lot calmer and more present in the world. I go for walks and look at trees and flowers, without the distraction of my phone. I sleep without the radio (normally at night its on). I am not checking each notification, each app for something new.

I feel free for those 25 hours. I often curl up with a book, sleep and just relax. However, any longer and I really would miss the outside digital world- its a fine balance.

For me I want to be more mindful and appreciative and not live life constantly by social media. It is how I promote my work and stay in touch with people. I love that contact but I also like to unplug my mind and rest.

What about you?

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

Can Animals and Pet Therapy help our Mental Health? Guest post by Dawn Prime

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(image: http://www.usatherapydogs.org/)

Can animals help our mental health? Approximately one in four people in England will experience a mental health issue each year (YouGOV). Every mental health issue is individual, and every situation is different; this can be shown in many forms including stress, anxiety and depression. Living with a mental health condition can affect many aspects of our daily life, with many describing it to be a lonely and isolating experience, whilst others withdraw from social interaction.

So, can animals help with mental health? In my experience they certainly can, and the therapeutic power of pets has been well documented. I believe that this is done in a number of ways, from improving mood, to calming down and giving a sense of purpose.

Whether it’s dogs, cats, rabbits or fish – each animal has a way to help and offer great companionship to those experiencing and overcoming mental health.

Mental health benefits associated with pets include:

* Decreased anxiety

* Reduced loneliness

* A known sense of comfort and safety

* A greater improvement of self-esteem and confidence

* Help in depression

At the best of times a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation, and in many ways they can help us all to live mentally healthier lives.

Caring for a pet gives our day a purpose and reward, similar to that sense of achievement in say, looking after a child. For example, owning a pet – especially a dog – means you will need to go for walks, which can often lead to conversations with other dog owners along the way, so simply put, it’s helping someone with mental health stay connected and less withdrawn in a social circle. Social anxiety can be a major hurdle to overcome but by having a dog, you have a ready-made conversation, as dog owners like to talk to other owners about their dogs!

Pets can also give owner’s incentive to remain calm – most pets are generally cute or cuddly and have the ‘awww’ factor, however our pets’ mood, at times, can very much reflect our own, so if we feel sad, our pet could be too.

Commanding and teaching our pet brings confidence and reassurance, and in time this will naturally train our own brains to let go of any negative stress. Unlike people, pets won’t judge your illness, so many people find it therapeutic to talk to animals as they listen – remember they are non-judgmental, and who knows they might just understand!

We can take stroking our pet as something we sub-consciously do whilst we watch the TV or read a newspaper, but did you know that stroking a pet can, at the same time, stop our minds drifting into negative thoughts.

Our mind releases feel good endorphins, so can make us feel better and calmer. The simple act of stroking a pet is also well known to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing physical and emotional stress.

Therapy animals also have a valuable role to play; often in a professional setting they provide comfort, support and can help to engage people. Therapy animals are trained to help people with mental health conditions such as depression and provide a calming atmosphere – with a typical therapy session involving the therapist, the animal and their handler.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months (Pet Partners).

Personally, I have known people whose anxiety has improved since having a pet. They find it very comforting in having some company which isn’t human, and someone they know who will love them unconditionally. It is re-assuring to know that they have a responsibility for looking after someone else that takes their mind off their own problems, whilst having a positive impact on their own well-being – helping them cope with everyday life.

Finally, it’s important to remember that every pet is different and it’s vital to be aware of the commitments they bring, for example a dog will need good walks at least twice a day and a horse will need to be ridden out. If you are not sure about taking on a pet but want the benefits that are associated with being around animals, then there are many local animal sanctuaries which would value a volunteer.

Animals can be wonderful creatures and really therapeutic for our mental health.

This article was written by animal nursing assistant, health advisor and writer Dawn Prime. 

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

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(image: OMG Quotes)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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