The Anxiety Train: A New Year by Eleanor

(Image: Unsplash)

Hi everyone,

I had been amazed over the summer by how much better I was doing with certain aspects of my anxiety and panic. I had a few panicky moments/ days but I was able to pick myself up and feel better quite quickly after.

At the moment though I can feel myself dipping back into anxious patterns. I had a panic attack in bed a few weeks ago, triggered by certain life stressors. Since then, I wake up flooded with anxiety and not feeling able to face the day/ feel like a doormouse and want to hibernate or hide. Sometimes this happens if I get triggered by something eg life stress or it can happen as the fluctuating rhythms of bipolar disorder. I am usually OK by late afternoon/evening but the mornings can be hard.

Change in seasons with less light, feeling extra pressures can lead my mind to try and protect me from a perceived fear due to past traumas (fear of judgement, fear of feeling exposed). This can mean that seeing people. going out a lot etc can become very difficult- welcome to social anxiety again. However, I know that this will not last forever.

This week, I had a good session with my therapist who advised me to try and take more time in the mornings to write, practise breathing and think about whats going on for me, with the aim of reducing anxiety. I do find this really hard as my default can be to shut down to look after myself (and hide away/sleep)- as my brain (subconscious) perceives a threat somewhere…

I have been through this before and come out the other side- and so I know I will be OK (and ironically, there is no need to panic over it) but its still stressful… and I just wish it wasn’t like this.

I am a person who loves routine and when I get out of a routine or pause, anxiety can flood in too.

I call it the anxiety train because it feels a bit like riding a fast train/ a roller coaster of ups and downs. It doesn’t stop fully but it can suddenly hurtle me and I have to calm myself. Its based on previous behaviour patterns that served me at a time when my brain thought it needed to protect me as a teenager and although I have had years of therapy and take medication, it can sometimes come back.

I will be alright in the end, you’ll see (Mrs Potts- beauty and the beast). I have lots of support but wanted to be honest about where I am.

We are approaching a Jewish New Year, and I pray that I will be blessed with better health and less anxiety coming (as well as good things and health for my loved ones).

Thanks for reading and allowing me to be honest,

Shana tova and only happiness. If you’re struggling, please reach out to someone you trust/love or Samaritans helpline. My DMs are open too,

Eleanor x

Mental Health At Work: First Aid Products Have Surged In Popularity In 2022.

(image: MHFA England)

Awareness days, weeks and months have helped to familiarise people all over the world with the term “Mental Health First Aid”. Now, first aid retailer FirstAid.co.uk reports a 260% uplift in interest for MHFA products on their site, noting that an increase in work-related stress, depression and anxiety cases each year is the most likely driving force.

The retailer has now sold more Mental Health First Aid items this year so far than everyday travel and motoring first aid kits.

Data from the Health and Safety Executive shows that cases of work-related ill health (of which 50% are stress, depression and anxiety) have risen almost 28% since 2015, despite physical injuries being in decline since 2000.

Their data also shows that 820,000 people in Great Britain suffered from work-related stress, depression and anxiety in 2021, compared to 441,000 people who sustained a physical injury at work.

“According to Mental Health First Aid England, one in six people of working age in the UK is experiencing symptoms of mental ill health at any given time.” Says Mike Thakoordin, MHFA Instructor and Suicide First Aid Associate at FirstAid.co.uk“We know that around 81% of employers have increased their focus on employee mental health since the pandemic began, and it is fair to say that awareness days and events are doing their part to sustain that focus. 

“During the first week of Stress Awareness Month in April we had an 85% increase in the number of people visiting our stress-related products compared to 2021, and we’re anticipating a similar surge between Suicide Prevention Day in September and World Mental Health Day in October as individual and business shoppers research items and guidance that can support those who are struggling.”

(image: Unsplash)

While events and awareness days like these play a big part in the ongoing rise in interest around mental health-related products online, it’s the persisting growth in the number of people struggling with poor mental health that is likely the bigger factor at play. Despite several years of employers saying they’re taking mental health more seriously, the reality is that a huge number of people each year still find themselves with too much work, not enough rest, workplace politics issues and concerns over job security – among other things.

“For several years running now, the HSE has reported an increase in the number of people taken ill by work-related stress, depression and anxiety.”  Thakoordin goes on to say. “Poor workplace mental health has knock-on effects in many other areas, and we hope that this increase in people shopping for MHFA materials translates into a greater number of workplaces offering meaningful, consistent support.

“With the 2-day Mental Health First Aid course recently being updated, now is the time to get enrolled and play your part in making workplaces safer from a mental health perspective.”


For information on how to recognise stress in the workplace, and advice on dealing with stress,
visit FirstAid’s Stress In The Workplace page.

This article was written in collaboration with First Aid.co.uk

Are Workplaces Doing Enough for Mental Health in a Post-Covid Era?

(image: Mateus Campos Felipe at Unsplash)

The global coronavirus pandemic brought mental health and personal wellbeing to the forefront of our working life. As more companies return to the office, employers need to think about whether or not they are doing enough to make mental health in the workplace a priority. We speak to consumer finance startup, CapitalBean.com, to get some insight.

Workplace Mental Health Post-Covid

“The coronavirus pandemic highlighted serious concerns regarding mental health and personal wellbeing,” explains Richard Allan of Capital Bean.

“With ongoing uncertainty and a heightened sense of risk, it could be argued that we were experiencing an unprecedented global mental health crisis, often with no end in sight.” 

From a workplace perspective especially, many workers were facing uncertainty regarding their job stability, redundancies and, for some, navigating an entirely new way of working and interacting with colleagues.”

“In response, many companies started to take employee mental health more seriously and implement frameworks and best practices; however, now that we are returning to normal and trying to leave Covid-19 in the past, what is the extent to which companies are keeping up with their commitment to employee mental health?”

The Return to the Office

During the Covid 19 pandemic, the majority of workers were learning how to do their jobs remotely. This presented a range of new challenges to navigate and loneliness was widely reported. Not only were people missing the daily social interactions with their colleagues, but they were also finding the blurred lines between home life and work life difficult to navigate – with people’s homes doubling up as their offices, many workers were finding it difficult to switch off and reported working more hours. 

Now that people are starting to return to the office, after adjusting to nearly three years of remote working, they are being faced with new challenges. People are finding the return to work difficult and reporting a great deal of anxiety regarding social interaction. In addition, after working from home, they are now having to juggle their home commitments alongside going to the office. Whether it is squeezing in laundry, balancing childcare, or even factoring in an extra hour for the commute, the return to the office is proving more difficult than expected for many and is causing stress and anxiety for some. Others prefer working from home, so there is a balance.

The Employer’s Role

Millions of workers are returning to the office or workplace with changed attitudes and new expectations. In order to attract and retain talent, it is important for employers to acknowledge this and respond empathetically. Many companies have included mental health in their promises to employees on return to the office but now it is their time to demonstrate that this is not merely lip service. 

Employers need to proactively introduce programmes that are promoting workplace mental wellbeing and help employees with the challenges that they are facing. It is important for workplaces to create a psychologically safe space for workers and welcome conversations surrounding mental health and support.

(image: Luis Villasmil at Unsplash)

The Great Resignation And Mental Health at Work

After the pandemic, more people than ever before started evaluating their working life and what their main priorities were. With new focus on mental wellbeing and work-life balance, workers started to question what their expectations were and what they required from their place of work. The great resignation, the mass exodus of millions of workers in 2021, left employers having to think about what they needed to offer workers to not only attract talent initially, but retain it. 

 Workers who were asked about the great resignation pinpointed lack of workplace communication, sense of belonging, employee-manager relationship and toxic environments all as reasons to leave their jobs. 

In a post-Covid era (and what should have been before this), it will fall to the employer to make sure their staff feel looked after, not just financially but also emotionally.

Employers need to make their employees feel like they are taken care of, respected and acknowledged, and that their personal wellbeing and mental health is a top priority. Going forward, this will be more important for jobseekers than free office lunches or staff drinks.

We all have mental health and it is vital this is acknowledged and cared for, and not ignored in the workplace.

This article contains links to partner organisations.

4 Kinds Of Therapy To Consider by Rachelle Wilber

(image: free image)

Therapy can be a great way to work through personal issues, improve your mental health, and make positive changes in your life. But with so many different types of therapy available, it can be hard to know where to start. Many people find that a kind of therapy works well for them, while others may benefit from a combination of different approaches. This overview will help you learn about four of the most common types of therapy to make an informed decision about what might work best for you. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps some people change negative thinking and behaviour patterns. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are interconnected. Changing our thoughts and beliefs can change our behaviour and emotions. CBT is effective in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression, so its worth a shot to see if its right for you. 

Group Therapy 

Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves meeting with a group of people who are dealing with similar issues. Group therapy can be helpful because it allows you to share your experiences and feelings with others who understand what you’re going through. It can also help you learn new coping skills and gain insight into your thoughts and behaviors. Many people find group therapy to be a supportive and helpful experience- but see how it goes for you as an individual too. 

Interpersonal Therapy 

When we have issues with our relationships, it can be challenging to know how to make things better. Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people improve their relationships with others. IPT focuses on the here and now, helping you to understand and change patterns of behaviour causing problems in your relationships. Several studies have shown that IPT is an effective treatment for depression- so this could be one to try. 

Family Therapy 

Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves meeting with a therapist along with your family members. Family therapy can be helpful because it allows you to address problems within your family system. It can also help improve communication and relationships within the family. Research by experts found family therapy to be a supportive and helpful experience. However, some have said that it wasn’t the right experience for them and their family, so it is trial and error too.

These are just a few of the many therapy types available. If you’re considering starting therapy, talk to your doctor or mental health professional about what might be right for you. Also, remember, there is no “right” type of therapy. What matters most is finding a therapist you feel comfortable with and who can help you achieve your goals. You may also try a few therapies before finding the correct one to help yourself, your relationships and your family.

This article was written by freelance writer, Rachelle Wilber, living in the San Diego, California area, USA. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @RachelleWilber; https://www.facebook.com/people/Rachelle-Wilber/100009221637700/

A Lovely Review Of My Book ‘Bring Me To Light’ By Deb Wilk at Living Bipolar Blog.

(image: https://www.pauladennan.com/reviews/)

Sometimes, you receive amazing book reviews on the internet and don’t realise they are there!

Yesterday, I stumbled upon Deb Wilk’s blog Living Bipolar – Deb has lived with bipolar disorder for many years and very kindly reviewed my book last year. She lives in the USA and is a talented blogger, sharing about her life living with bipolar.

I don’t always know what to expect with reviews, but this was so positive so thank you Deb for reading, enjoying and recommending my book Bring me to Light: Embracing my Bipolar and Social Anxiety. Heres some quotes from the review:

Every word, paragraph and chapter of Bring Me to Light was utterly mesmerizing.  Eleanor Segall’s account of her battle with bipolar 1, panic attacks, and crippling social anxiety is so vibrant that the reader feels as though they are experiencing it right alongside her.

I would love to describe the book in detail, but I am not going to give anything away because this book is an absolute must-read.  Anyone who is bipolar or loves someone who is, should read this story.  It is a moving narrative that anyone, even those who do not suffer with mental illness, should read.  

She is now an extremely forceful voice in the mental health community, and this accolade is incredibly well deserved.  Please read this book.  You will find it well worthwhile and, I am certain, as enthralling as I did.” (Deb Wilk, living bipolar blog)

To read more of Debs review click here

Bring me to Light is available now on Amazon and in all good bookshops (including Waterstones, W H Smith and Blackwells and is available globally).

My Interview On Life With Bipolar Disorder by Best For You NHS

(image: Best for You NHS)

The team at Best For You NHS interviewed me about my life journey with bipolar disorder and anxiety. I hope it helps anyone, particularly young people, who are struggling.

You can read the interview that I did with Annabel here. Trigger warning as discusses suicidal thoughts, being in hospital and sexual assault.!

Thank you Annabel and team!

Best for You is a new NHS programme in London to help young people and their families access mental health support We know many can’t access the support they do desperately need and CAMHS services here in the UK are overstretched. I hope that by sharing my story it helps young people feel less alone, but we desperately need more funding into childrens mental health services too!

(Images by Best for You NHS)

Eleanor x

Thank you for sharing my book ‘Bring me to Light’!

(image: Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust)


The other day I was contacted over on Twitter by a senior mental health nurse who had read my book ‘Bring me to Light.: embracing my bipolar and social anxiety’. She felt that it should be read by her colleagues at Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust, here in England, and so donated a copy to the staff library for them to read- and they shared this photo.

This was by far one of the most touching and special things to have happened on my book journey- while it may seem small, to me it means the world.

I wrote my book, my memoir about living with bipolar disorder and social anxiety to help other people going through it (and their families) feel less alone. However, to see it being used by mental health hospitals- where I have been twice in my life, though in London- brings me hope.

Hope that professionals will read it and learn from it (there were times in hospital that I wasn’t fully happy with my care but most staff were amazing).

Hope that we can make a change and help the stigma around mental illness to fall.

Hope that by sharing my story, it will encourage others to feel comfortable to share theirs without fear of shame or embarrassment.

So thank you to Dawn💕 and Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust. If you’d like a copy of my book : https://lnkd.in/e3cheTw

Mental Health Medication And Dangerous Side Effects In The Heatwave by Eleanor

(image: Roman Odintsov)

In the words of Motown singers Martha Reeves and the Vandellas,

‘Just like a heatwave
Burning in my heart
Can’t keep from cryin’
It’s tearing me apart’

Temperatures yesterday here in the UK reached 40 degrees celsius, the hottest day here on record ever! Some people love the heat- ‘Oh it reminds me of being on the beach on holiday’, ‘It’s not that hot- just put a cold flannel on your face’ and ‘Why are people moaning, we go abroad to get this weather?’ are things i have heard this week. However, for people like myself who take strong mental health medication, in a country not used to these temperatures, this weather is quite literally no picnic.

Firstly, my parents and sister are redheads with pale skin. I am the same and am not built for the heat or humidity. Then, we can add in the fact that I have bipolar disorder and take daily medication- which if not managed correctly can send my blood and body toxic. This has never happened as I stay indoors, don’t do strenuous exercise and drink constantly (and eat enough) in the heat. Yesterday though was a big risk as it became SO hot.

(image: Karolina Grabowska: Pexels)

The risks of Lithium, a mood stabilising medicine, in the heat are fairly well known. It is a natural salt, dehydrating the body so if you don’t drink enough water or eat enough salt, the level of Lithium in the blood saturates and becomes too high- toxic.

Signs of lithium toxicity include: nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea, confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, increased thirst and lack of coordination of muscles. Severe toxicity signs are: blurred vision, severe muscle spasms, seizures and coma. It is no joke. So trying to cope with Lithium in 40 degree weather and in most places, lack of air con, meant I was confined to my home as I didn’t want to feel like I was melting or run out of water. Thankfully, I didn’t go toxic!

Additionally, I take the anti psychotic Quetaipine which stops me developing mania and psychosis. This and another such medications can impair the body’s ability to regulate it’s own temperature. I am therefore at risk of developing hyperthermia- excessive body temperature- which can be fatal. (scary right??)

So you can imagine that when I hear we are having a heatwave, I instantly think ‘stay indoors, cool showers, ice lollies, sit by air con unit, drink lots and lots’ . I worry about commuting or travelling in the heat. I still can be out in some heat- but 40 degrees was too much!

Something that has troubled me as i wrote this blog is this. My employers have been amazing and let me work from home yesterday. I am able to hydrate myself and eat and keep myself cool. But for those who are ill and unable to, I imagine many were rushed to A and E with the above symptoms yesterday. As a vulnerable adult, my GP didn’t even call to check on me or highlight the side effects of my meds… I only know all this from Dr Google!

There is still a long way to go with proper care for those of us living with (as termed by my doctor) ‘severe mental illness’ whether we live in remission/recovery or whether we have a support network…..I may be 34, not 94- but I could be at risk and they wouldn’t know.

I hope by writing this blog and highlighting these side effects that more people will be aware of this too- which affects people with bipolar, schizophrenia/ schizoaffective disorder, psychosis, depression and other illnesses where anti psychotic meds are used.

One positive- when the heat broke last night and the summer rain fell as Rob and I watched on our balcony.. it reminded me of being in India during monsoon season and in Ghana having a shower in the rain so I suppose not all bad! I admitted I cheered when I saw the rain.

Lastly, I can’t finish this blog without highlighting we had a family bereavement yesterday- a cousin (but more like an uncle) passed away after illness. I will miss him terribly but learnt so much from him- kindness, humility and faith.

Stay safe in this heat! Do your meds affect you?

Love,

Eleanor

xx

4 Effective Ways to Boost Your Mood And Keep Well.

(image: Shutterstock)

Your mental health matters a great deal when it comes to your overall wellbeing. There may be days or times you feel low or maybe you’re someone who is managing a mental health or mood disorder currently.

Regardless of who you are, it’s important that you take positive steps in the right direction to take good care of yourself. Consider making and incorporating these changes and then notice how much better you feel overall. Here are four effective ways to boost your mood and be well so that you can get back to living fully and have a smile on your face while you do it.

1. Exercise & Move More

One effective way to boost your mood and be well is to exercise. Not only workout and break a sweat regularly but also commit to moving more throughout the day. Exercising is great for your mental health and can instantly put you in a better mood. Make working out fun by engaging in activities you enjoy and that get your body moving and making a playlist that keeps you motivated.

2. Get Organised & Declutter

Another effective way to boost your mood and be well is to get organised and reduce the clutter in your home, office, and life. You’ll feel less stressed daily and will be able to easily find what you’re looking for. Go through old boxes and get rid of or donate items you no longer use or want sitting around. As for anything you decide you want to keep but don’t want in your home, it would be useful to look into securing a storage unit with https://www.storagearea.com for the overflow.

3. Stay Social & Connect with Others

If you want to effectively boost your mood and be well then it’s in your best interest to build relationships with others, if you are able. Stay social when you can and make connections that are meaningful and rewarding. Keep a social calendar and be sure to get out and about once in a while so that you’re not always sitting around the house or feeling lonely. Sometimes this can be more difficult, so be kind to yourself.

You may want to join clubs or orgnaisations in your area, volunteer, or play group sports to help you stay better connected, if you want to. Otherwise, take up a hobby or two and make new friends this way as well. If you struggle with making friends or have social anxiety, you aren’t alone and there is a lot of support out there for you too!

4. Eat A Healthy Diet  

What you put in your body for fuel can also impact your mood and mental health. Feel better fast by eating a healthy diet and cutting back on sugar, alcohol, and processed and fried foods. Some foods can also cause anxiety and make you feel uneasy. Stick to a healthy and well-balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens, nuts, and lean proteins. It might help to get in the habit of cooking for yourself at home so you have more control over the ingredients you use and what you’re eating. Also, always drink plenty of water to make sure you stay hydrated and have more natural energy to get you through the day.  

Keeping well is something you can do for yourelf- go at your own pace and look after your mental health and overall wellbeing.

This article was written by a freelance writer.

Taking Lithium for Bipolar Disorder: Side Effects by Eleanor

Pre Lithium in 2010 (skinny minny)

Post Lithium (on my wedding day in 2019)

I first heard about Lithium carbonate, a natural salt and the ‘gold standard’ medicine for bipolar disorder, when I was in my teen years. My dad was taking it to help his bipolar episodes- Lithium is known to stabilise mood and stop mania and depression from occurring or lessening their impact. I knew then that it was quite a strong drug, that you would need blood tests and that it caused weight gain. But it really helped my dad with his illness.

Fast forward to 2004, I was just 16 and had been diagnosed with bipolar in hospital. My brain was still growing and both I and my psychiatrist were reluctant to try Lithium at that stage, so I was started on Carbamazepine, another mood stabiliser. It was only when this medicine stopped working about 10 years later in 2014, when I was struggling with suicidal depression and anxiety (which then turned into a manic episode that I was hospitalised for), that I seriously considered taking Lithium to help me, like it helped my dad.

Lithium was first found to have benefits for patients with bipolar disorder in the 1950s, with a discovery by psychiatrist John Cade. Even today, we still don’t know what causes the disorder, but it is believed that Lithium stabilises mood – particularly mania. The psychiatrist.com notes this,

The real breakthrough in lithium therapy came in 1952, when Erik Stömgren, a Danish psychiatrist and head of the Aarhus University psychiatric clinic in Risskov who had read Cade’s article, suggested to a staff psychiatrist at the hospital, Mogens Schou, that he undertake a randomly controlled study of lithium for mania. Random controls were just being introduced to psychiatric drug trials at that time, and Schou randomly assigned patients to lithium or placebo by the flip of a coin. His results were published in a British journal with the article concluding, “The lithium therapy appears to offer a useful alternative to [electr[electroconvulsive therapy] since many patients can be kept in a normal state by administration of a maintenance dose.”

For me personally, Lithium treatment has changed my life in a number of ways- both good and not so good. Lets start with the good, I havn’t had an episode of mania and psychosis or suicidal severe depression in 8 years, which is largely down to medication helping my bipolar brain chemistry. It has worked for me- which is amazing- and I never thought I would find an effective treatment to help me. I have bipolar 1, the most severe type and although Dad has the same and was helped, I never thought it would lead me to remission. In fact, in 2014 when I was under the home treatment team after hospital, one of the nurses asked me to consider whether Lithium might not work for me and I might have to live with episodes… needless to say I cried as was very fragile and asked her to leave! She was wrong, thankfully.

On to the bad things: Lithium in combination with an antipsychotic Quetaipine has caused me to put on a lot of weight, as it slows metabolism. I also have to have 3 monthly blood tests to check my lithium level is within the correct range as too much is toxic to the body. Thankfully, I drink enough water and eat enough salt so I have never had a toxic reading but its a very careful balance..I have to always look after myself. Another bad side effect is skin sensitivity and acne- Lithium causes spots- so I have had to adapt my skincare regime and diet accordingly. Sometimes certain foods plus Lithium can trigger this too. Again, I have to pay more attention to my physical health as a result of taking Lithium and Quetaipine

The weight gain in particular has been a worry for me and is something I am working on., especially as diabetes runs in my family. Then there is the Lithium thirst…

Lithium as mentioned is a salt, and as it metabolises in the body, makes you incredibly thirsty. You have to be careful not to get dehydrated. Hence my love affair with Robinsons squash and the occasional ice cold fruit juice. No matter how much I drink, I can never fully quench my thirst, even if well hydrated. Lithium thirst is not the easiest… but Robinsons is my friend as its lower in calories and more delicious than plain water! And now I am thirsty again… haha

So I have a love-hate affair with Lithium. Brilliant for my mental health, not so great for my physical health at times. There is also a concern because over time Lithium can cause kidney and thyroid issues, which is why I have blood tests too. So its not perfect, but it really helps me to live my life and have stable mental health. Over time, its important i am monitored. I have been on it 8 years, but it could start causing problems at some point.

Additionally, when I please G-d get pregnant one day, my lithium levels will need to be monitored (but thats a blog for another time).

I don’t have nausea or trembling on Lithium which is good, but the other side effects (particularly weight) have not been so pleasant. I am so grateful though to have a medicine that keeps me well and out of hospital, able to live a life that some others take for granted.

Thanks to all who voted for this blog. If theres anything else you’d like to know, just ask a question and I will respond.

Eleanor x