What It’s Like To Go Through Severe Depression as a Bipolar Episode: Looking Back by Eleanor

(image of Eleanors book Bring me to Light: Eleanor Segall/ Trigger and Welbeck publishing)

TRIGGER WARNING- DISCUSSES SUICIDAL IDEATION, SELF HARM AND BIPOLAR DISORDER. PLEASE READ WITH CARE

This weekend, I went home to my mums to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) and have some quiet, family time. It was wonderful and because our religious laws mean we don’t use the internet, our phone on our festivals, it meant I had time for digital detoxing and switching off. But with that silence, came space. To think and reflect.

Something you may not know about me is that as well as being a writer, throughout the years I have been a prolific diary (journal) writer. The act of putting pen to paper and type to keyboard has always been therapeutic for me in my darkest moments. I found a diary I had written in 2013, when I was living with depression, suicidal ideation and self harm thoughts and actions.

The journal was covered in butterflies- always my symbol of hope. I don’t want to trigger anyone so I will say this carefully- essentially, I was so unwell that for me, my symptoms were: sleeping until the afternoon with a slight break for a meal or tablets, not socialising, finding it hard to wash due to increased anxiety and lethargy, feeling like I didn’t want to wake up the next day and wanting to harm myself in various ways- but being so frightened by these thoughts (because i knew they weren’t really Eleanor) that i had to vocalise them to my family and psychiatrist to keep myself safe. Thats what I did and its why I am still here today, in recovery.

I lived with this depression for about 6 months- my psychiatrist was encouraging me to try Lithium to stablise the bipolar but I wasn’t ready and wanted to see if Quetaipine could halt that. As we know, I became hospitalised for mania soon after in 2014 which led me to recovery and writing my book Bring me to Light.

When you live with an illness like bipolar disorder, you can sometimes forget the nuances of all the details of how you were when you were unwell. For me, I always felt that I handled the depressive episodes ‘better’ than the mania- just because I was able to keep myself as safe as possible by telling my family and doctor and changing medication. My psychiatrist had to come out to see me at home with a nurse as I was so unwell and I wrote out how I felt for him to know.

So many people live with terrible episodes of depression so this blog is just looking back and giving you some knowledge of how it manifested for me. Essentially, depression is a slowing down of the mind towards inactivity, darkness, misery, anxiety, agitation and it is often triggered due to changes in hormones and brain chemistry (if you have a family history its more likely to happen). Depression is not just low mood. Its paralysing. Its not wanting to be in the world and being in so much emotional pain. You may think of ways to harm yourself and you may dream of not being in the world. Or you may be ‘high functioning’. I somehow managed to go to friends weddings during this time despite spending the other days in bed til 5pm- I have no idea how- anti depressants and support helped greatly. However, my depression was dark and invasive.


Now, I had forgotten a lot of these finer details. For me, I never truly wanted to die- I wanted the uncontrollable bipolar to go! The suicidal ideation was my bipolar brain chemistry but also an expression of not coping with life and the bipolar moods I had been given- I was 24 and I couldn’t enjoy life- i was wracked with anxiety too. My mental health was fragile and unstable and it is no way to live- but what saved me, was being hospitalised and finding medication and therapy that has helped me to live in remission (thank God) for 7 years now.

I can say now that my brain chemistry is balanced and even if i ever get sad or frustrated, I don’t have those awful thoughts and if they ever come up, I can deal with them. I have such a supportive partner and family- my family and psychiatrist saved me as well as me trying to save myself- I frightened myself with my thoughts and I had some semblance of being able to keep myself going, which is not possible for everyone. It helped that my Dad has bipolar and could really understand what was going on for me too- he understood exactly how I was feeling but he knew it was the illness and not Ellie. I feel so lucky for that because not everyone has this. My mum, step dad and sister and wider family also were so supportive and never blamed me for being unwell. That helped too. My faith also has helped me dearly,

(Me at 25 when I was going through depression. This photo was a selfie taken when I was dressed up to go to a friends wedding and my sister had done my make up. There were no photos with messy hair or red eyes and tears. I never looked this good when I was in bed til 5pm most days in my PJs).

If youve got this far thank you for reading. My mission is to help others with these conditions feel less alone, through sharing my own experiences. I have been careful not to reveal what certain thoughts were here so I don’t trigger anyone.

If you live with depression and a host of other issues, you can recover again. Hold on. You will not feel like this forever and you can find a level of happiness and stability again. Reach for help, someone you trust, a help line, a psychiatrist and don’t give up.

Bipolar and Perinatal Mental Health: Part One by Eleanor

(image: pinterest)

I havn’t been sure for many months whether I was ready or wanted to share about the many issues I have been grappling with for a number of years. However, writing for me is therapeutic and so I wanted to share about the reality of mood disorders and thinking about starting a family.

To begin with, this is such a personal and complex issue for anyone with what is termed ‘severe mental illness; ie bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis. Our illnesses mainly have to be managed on daily medication and for some people with severe mental illness, they may still live with daily symptoms which can cause difficulties for them.

So this article is my personal experience of living with Bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety. To note, I was started on Lithium in 2014 after my last hospitalisation- which has stabilised the bipolar episodes into remission (it does something to the seretonin in the brain). I still live with some anxiety, but the combination of Lithium, Quetaipine (an anti psychotic) and anti depressants has meant that I do not become manic or psychotic and nor do I suffer from severe depression or suicidal depression. I feel more stable and I have engaged in therapy for the trauma I went through, for 2 years. So, thankfully at the moment my illness is very much controlled well and I have support from Rob and my family.

One side effects of my medicines has been weight gain and I aim to lose weight over the next year. This is important to me because it can sometimes impact on fertility and also makes a pregnancy more high risk (physical side effects such as blood clots etc). I will also be 34 in July and so this has become more pressing for me in terms of wanting to try for a baby. However, there are many risks in choosing to do this and going ahead, without speaking to a perinatal psychiatrist or mental health team.

Today, I got my referral letter to the mental health team to discuss planning a pregnancy and am on an NHS waiting list til June. For me, because my type of bipolar can be dangerous with the mania and psychosis- and having had several psychotic episodes in my life to date that have ended me up in hospital- a pregnancy where I carry a baby myself, has to be carefully planned in terms of my medication. For many reasons, I want to stay on my medicines for the entire pregnancy- so that I don’t end up relapsing during or straight after pregnancy (with bipolar there is a greater risk of relapse and post partum depression/psychosis due to the hormonal changes straight after birth).

I have been terrified for a number of years over what to do in order to keep me and a potential baby safe. I have researched surrogacy so I don’t risk making myself unwell, but this comes with a whole host of legal challenges around who is the parent, high financial costs (of treatment and paying expenses for surrogate/agencies) etc and the wait for the right surrogate. Surrogates can also pull out before giving. birth, you have to put your trust in them if you don’t know them- and you are trusting them with something hugely important! We also thought about adoption but with my mental health history and the potential issues that a child in care may be facing, I just didn’t want to put myself through the stress of being scrutinised.

So, please God even if we are blessed with a healthy child- the pregnancy may be as a friend of mine has termed ‘high risk’. This scares me and it scares me about potentially ending up in hospital again, on a mother and baby unit. I want to stay on my mood stabiliser and anti psychotic so the bipolar doesn’t cause this- however, I have decided that as long as I can stay on my medication and have the support of an experienced perinatal psychiatrist and mental health team (as well as my therapist),- plus regular monitoring and scans… and of course a proper plan put in place in case of relapse, this is what I will do (again, no one knows until you start trying for a baby and there can be many hurdles but I am trying to think positively).

I have also been asked whether I am worried about passing bipolar on. This is a worry as it does run in my family- however, I believe the risk of this with one parent is only about 10% (I got unlucky). Sometimes, I sit and question- am I being selfish for wanting to be a mother? And I realise, no I am not selfish. I don’t want my potential child to get bipolar disorder but equally if they do, we will deal with it. We also both want to get tested by Jnetics as we are both Ashkenazi (East European) Jews so may be carriers for certain illnesses.

Some women don’t want to be mothers, but I always have done since I was a little girl and I can’t imagine never having a family with my husband. I want to be the best Mum I can be and reduce my illness risk as much as possible to remain stable and well.

Do I wish things were different and I didn’t have this illness? Yes. but the reality is that I do but that I have been stable for a long time. I know we will make good parents whatever way it happens and I just hope the road ahead won’t be paved with challenges… it is never easy. I write this because its not often talked about… and I know there will be more to come on this subject but I wanted to share- if you yourself are going through something similar, you aren’t alone.

It took a lot to share this because its so personal and I worry about sharing too much- but this blog has been years in the making really! There is never a right time to open up- but maybe now I can allow myself to a bit and release the burden.

People sometimes ask me if I have children (as im mid thirties and married) and my answer is always, I hope to one day soon but leave it in Gods hands.

With love,

Eleanor x

Looking After Your Mental Health While Working from Home.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

When you work from home, it can be challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. You may find yourself working all hours of the day and night and not getting enough exercise or social time. This can lead to problems with your mental health. Here we will discuss some tips for looking after your mental health when working from home.

1) Make Sure To Take Breaks Throughout The Day

When you work from home, it is essential to make sure that you take breaks throughout the day. This will help you to avoid burnout and will allow you to recharge your batteries. Make sure to step away from your work every few hours, even if it is just for a few minutes. If you work from home and you notice that your mac is hot, go for a walk, make yourself a cup of tea, or call a friend while you wait for it to cool down.

Doing something that takes your mind off of work will help you return to your tasks feeling refreshed and ready to tackle them.

If possible, try to take a longer break in the middle of the day – this will give you something to look forward to and will help break up the monotony of working from home.

2) Set A Schedule And Stick To It

One of the best ways to stay on top of your mental health when working from home is to set a schedule and stick to it. Having a routine will help you to feel more in control of your work, and it will make it easier to take breaks when you need to.

If possible, try to start and end your workday simultaneously each day. This will create a sense of structure in your day, and it will give you something to look forward to.

In addition, make sure to schedule time for lunch and other breaks. Putting these into your schedule will ensure that you take them, and they will help you to avoid working straight through the day.

3) Make Sure Your Workspace Is Comfortable

When you work from home, your workspace is likely to be in your house. This can make it difficult to separate your home life from your work life. To help with this, it is essential to make sure that your workspace is comfortable and inviting.

Your workspace should be somewhere that you enjoy spending time, so make sure to personalize it with things that make you happy. If possible, try to set up your workspace near a window with natural light. This will help you to feel more energized and will reduce eye strain.

In addition, make sure that your workspace is free of distractions. Turn off the television, put away any toys or games, and close the door to any other rooms in the house. This will help you to focus on your work and will minimize distractions.

In conclusion, working from home can affect your mental health. However, by following these tips, you can make sure that you stay on top of your mental health and avoid burnout.

Make sure to take breaks throughout the day, set a schedule and stick to it, and create a comfortable and inviting workspace. By following these tips and looking after your health, you will be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance and will be able to enjoy working from home.

This article was written by a freelance writer and contains links.

Starting The Conversation: 5 Tips On How To Talk To Your Boss About Your Mental Health

Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

According to new data from Mental Health Statistics, during 2020, 58% of workers experienced some kind of work-related stress, while 63% were experiencing moderate levels of anxiety. 

Health experts have warned, that if these mental health issues are left untreated, it can impact our day-to-day lives, including the ability to do our jobs. 

That’s why the team of experts at Delamere, have shared five ways to open up the conversation about mental health with your employer: 

  1. Find the Right Time and Place to Talk  

When approaching the conversation of mental health with your employer, one thing that will help is finding the right time to talk. Talking to your boss on a day when they seem overwhelmed might result in you not getting the best response, so make sure to schedule a call or an in-person conversation with them ahead of time.

As well as the right time, it’s also important to find an appropriate place to have the conversation. Find a place that will allow you to talk in a professional and calm way, and is a quiet space in your workplace. If somewhere suitable isn’t available you could also suggest meeting outside the office or even going for a walk. 

  1. Plan what you are going to say ahead of your meeting

Before speaking to your manager one of the best ways you can prepare is by planning what you want to discuss ahead of time. This will not only calm any nerves you might be having ahead of the conversation but will also ensure that you are only sharing what is needed to frame how your mental health is impacting your work.

Points you can prepare in advance could include, identifying tasks within your current role and workload that is making you stressed, reminding your boss of your achievements so that they remember you are more than capable, explaining what factors might need to change in order to help you.

  1. Decide Who To Speak To 

If you decide to open up to your employer about your mental health, consider who you will feel most comfortable having the conversation with. 

If you have a good relationship with one of your managers, it might be helpful talking to them about what you are going through. However, if you find that they aren’t very approachable, consider speaking to someone within your HR department that will be able to help you.

  1. Consider That Your Boss May be More Receptive Than You Think

Though talking about your mental health with your employer may feel like an uncomfortable situation, they may actually be more understanding than you anticipate them to be. 

Mental illness is very common illness and a lot of people, unfortunately, suffer from this in the workplace. So when you start the conversation, the chances are your boss or employer will have already had direct experience with dealing with it or even experienced it themselves. 

  1. Focus on Your Productivity and Ability to Work

To get the most out of your conversation with your employer, think beforehand about how your mental health is impacting your productivity and ability to work.

If you go into the meeting with this already prepared, the chances are you will have greater success coming up with solutions on how your employer can support you and what you need to get better. Whether it’s more flexible working hours or a lighter workload.

This article was written by Delamere residential addiction care.

Our Blog is 6 Years Old Today!

On the 1st March 2016, I started this blog as a way to provide therapy for myself- as I was going through panic attacks, (caused by trauma due to a hospitalisation for a bipolar manic episode). Since then I have had several years of EMDR trauma therapy and my life changed so much too- I met my husband, we got married and moved to our first home. I also found a career I love after many twists and turns due to mental illness. Life is never plain sailing especially with mental health and I still live with panic attacks/ social anxiety at times but am learning to manage them.

The blog has turned into a book Bring me to Light (with Trigger), writing for Metro.co.uk, Glamour, the Telegraph, Happiful, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and other incredible organisations, I have partnered with large and small brands, charities, businesses, writers to create content that battles stigma on mental health. We have been awarded as a Top 10 UK blog by Vuelio since 2018 (thank you) and I love to share my story to help others and educate people about bipolar, anxiety, panic disorders, psychosis, mania and mental health in the workplace (amongst other mental health topics!). I have also recorded podcasts – most recently with Dr Rosena Allin Khan MP, shadow minister for mental health, Daniel Rosenberg at SodsPod and was also interviewed by Penny Power OBE with my Dad Mike (who is a mental health speaker).

When I started this blog I had no idea where it would lead and its been the most special, humbling and amazing journey- with so much more to do so watch this space!. I really want to help more people this year and also have a childrens book I would love to get out there to help kids with anxiety.

As always, I want to thank all my contributors and brands (sponsored or not), as well as the digital agencies and freelance writers who provide content too. I hope to keep it going for the next year at least! Let me know what you want to see.

This year heres what we have been talking about (and big thank you to everyone. If it doesnt have a name by it, content has been written by a writer):



How social distancing is affecting social anxiety in the pandemic- Anita Ginsburg

Book Review of the Smart Girls Handbook by Scarlett Clark- me (Eleanor)

Being kind to myself, social anxiety and life in recovery- me (Eleanor)

Self care ideas for positive change in 2021

How to cope with top 4 challenging life events

The Book of Hope launchme

Sending self care packages- a guide to sending gifts

Feel less trapped with these powerful ideas

6 Tips to stay positive and help mental health

Moving to our First Home and mental health- me

How to reach for help and not be ashamed

Whats the connection between mental health and addiction- Jennifer at Mandala Healing

We are a top UK mental health blog 2021- thanks Vuelio- Me

Can you still get health insurance cover if you have a history of mental illness?

The benefits of seeking mental health support and help

The link between debt and mental health

Start Up founders are 50% more likely to suffer from a mental health condition- Daniel Tannenbaum

How can mental health workers cope with the new normal?

Easing the burden of divorce- Brooke Chaplan

Stress and Panic Attacks Part two- Me

How to remain independent and look after your health as you get older

How selfie changed my life and mental health- Kathryn Chapman

The benefits of personal training for your mental health- Life Force Fitness

Recovery from alcohol or substance abuse: benefits of a sober living home

6 Ways Fathers can Assist New Mothers- Jess Levine

Work in progress- healing from trauma to find the light- me

Is stress affecting your skin? heres how to tell

Prioritising mental health on the world stage, Simone biles- me

Why privacy is critical for our mental health

Goal setting for mental health

Moving house? 5 tips to deal with moving stress

4 Ways to make mental health a priority in your life- Emma Sturgis

What you need to know about post Partum Depression- Kara Reynolds

The Midnight Library book review- me

5 interior design ideas to boost wellbeing

Steps to help aging and wellbeing

How to keep your children in mind during a divorce-Brooke Chaplan

Bryony Gordons mental health card collection for Thortful.com

The Inquisitive-a film on mental health and suicide- Kelvin Richards

Being self compassionate when I have anxiety- me

Keeping things stress free when selling an elderly family members home

7 Bipolar disorder facts everyone should know- Ronnie Deno

Recovering from an eating disorder- Kara Masterson

Wellbeing tips and activities for children- collaboration with Twinkl resources

Building trust in a relationship

How sleep patterns affect your mental health

Choosing life and freedom- my therapy journey- me

Dealing with imposter syndrome

Confidence on return to the office

lifestyles and mental health- Anna Witcherley at Head Hacks

Stress and mild anxiety formula- Nu mind wellness

Mental health problems in the pandemic- Webdoctor.ie

Patient transport helps anxious travellers- EMA Patient transport

How to stop signs of traumatic brain injury- Lizzie Weakley

Looking after mental health in a tense office environment

Dealing with anxiety as a mom/mum- Kara Reynolds

5 Self help books for 2022

Winter mental health and anxiety update- me

Tips to fight addiction- Lizzie Weakley

Lockdown, sleep, anxiety and mental health- collaboration with TEMPUR mattresses (ad)

Helping elderly people to live independently

Getting your loved one help for their addiction- Emma Sturgis

How to support your spouse with mental health issues- Kara Reynolds

Battling co occurring mental health and substance addiction- Holly

Festive season- me

Its Okay not to be Okay by Esther Marshall book review- me

The difference between a therapist and life coach- Lizzie Weakley

Managing mental health over christmas/ festive time- me

Reflecting on a new year 2022- me

Surviving trauma makes relationships difficult- self compassion helps- Taylor Blanchard

Window to the womb launches avocado app for perinatal wellbeing

Where to start when battling addiction- Rachelle Wilber

Mental health new year resolutions

Book review- Pushing through the cracks- Emily J Johnson- me

Depression meals when life gets hard- Kara Reynolds

Jami see mental health campaign blog

Recovering from cancer- the mental health aspect- Rachelle Wilber

Outdoor activities to improve your mental health- Elizabeth Howard

Mental health and eating disorder recovery journey- Emily J. Johnson

Fitness and mental health

Interview with Penny Power MBE, Thomas Power and Mike Segall on bipolar disorder

Self love for Valentines Day- with Kalms (ad)

Being debt free and in good mental health for 2022

Mental health medication- fighting the stigma- me

Overcoming alcohol addiction- Rachelle Wilber

Spiritual tips for helping mental health

Risk factors for post partum depression

Wow! Thank you for supporting me and the blog, for continuing to read and share it and to help battle the stigma around not only bipolar disorder and anxiety- but every mental illness.

Love,

Eleanor x

Taking Mental Health Medication Doesn’t Make You ‘Weak’: Fighting the Stigma by Eleanor

(image: Matthew Ball for Unsplash)

Disclaimer: All medication must only be prescribed by a psychiatrist or GP dealing with you individually. Advice from medical professionals must be sought before taking any medication., Never take someone elses medication or try to cure yourself!

This week, I had a conversation with someone about being on mental health medication, in this case, anti depressants for clinical depression. We reminisced that as teenagers, we just weren’t taught properly by school or in society about mental illness. It wasn’t talked about here in the UK back in the 2000s and everything was really hushed up, cloak and dagger, as if you had to be ashamed of it. As if anything to do with our mind was shameful- no one really had much education, unless it happened in your family.

I know that for many people, even in 2022, taking medication for their mental health carries this sense of shame.

For me personally, I was so ill that there really was no choice for me as a 15 year old, but to be started on medication. My symptoms of bipolar disorder first appeared at the age of 15 with depression and anxiety episodes, followed by mania and psychosis. So, I was on anti psychotic medications as well as what is known as a mood stabiliser, a medicine for mood disorders that stabilises moods (in this case, the bipolar poles). I also took regular anti depressants and anti anxiety medications and still do daily. My medicine regime is pretty intense but it means that my bipolar is well controlled and in remission- and that I am stable. My family has a hereditary illness that can be severe- so medication was the right choice for me.

However, for those without a severe mental illness like bipolar or schizophrenia, you may be recommended to try anti depressants first. There are varying different types which work on seretonin reuptake in the brain and help to balance brain chemistry.(although scientists cannot pinpoint the cause for depression fully yet). These can be used in combination with therapy and exercise to help treat depression and anxiety.

Some families and cultures hold great shame to be seen taking mental health medication and so hide it from loved ones. Others stop taking it, believing they are stable and well because the medication has balanced them out- and then crash into depression. For some though, anti depressants are a shorter term thing. The point is, its all so individual and there is no one size fits all medicine- you must do what is right for your recovery but definitely do not suddenly stop them.

In my family, my Dad was already on mental health medication- Lithium for bipolar, when I became ill. So, I was lucky that I had a loving supportive and accepting family, including plenty of medical professionals who understood. It was a steep learning curve for everyone though. And yes, as a teenager, I did hold some shame for taking medicines because I just wanted to ‘fit in’ and be a ‘normal’ teen. Coupled with the fact no one openly talked about mental illness at school or in general (this was just before social media!) and I felt this overwhelming sense of shame that my brain chemicals had let me down. I never once skipped taking medication though.

The thing is with mental health is that you can’t see it. But, you can absolutely feel when something is wrong and when you feel chemically depressed or other mental illness. This is usually depression unlinked to a life event- you wake up with it and you know its back, you feel despondent and unable to cope.

Yet, because you can’t see it- shame is even greater because how do you explain it to others? And are you ‘weak’ or ‘crazy’ to need medication to function?

The answer is No. To have to take the correct prescribed medication for you daily is an effort. You have to commit to it and to seeing how some medicines go. To go through episodes of mental illness makes you stronger and more resilient, surviving each day. You are not weak, your brain just needs help (like helping diabetes or a heart problem) and the words ‘crazy’ or ‘unhinged’ just serve to reinforce stigma. There is no need to be afraid or filled with shame or self loathing- but it is valid to feel this way as you are human!

In 2017, it was estimated that 792 million people worldwide lived with a mental health disorder (one in 10 globally). 46 million of those had my disorder, bipolar. However, this is the tip of the iceberg because mental illness is often underreported due to stigma. So- you are not alone. There is treatment out there to help you.

Remember not to be ashamed of needing medication to cope with life’s challenges (alongside therapy etc). The stigma is slowly falling and I will continue to write and share to this end.

You are not weak! You are powerful beyond comprehension .

Do you take medication? Does it help you?


Love,

Eleanor x

Mental Health Chat With Penny Power OBE and Thomas Power of Business Is Personal with Myself and my Dad Mike Segall. Our Journey With Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety.


Yesterday, 9th Feb, my dad Mike and I were honoured to be interviewed by his friends of many years, Penny Power OBE and Thomas Power of Business is Personal- live on Linkedin, Youtube and Facebook.

They asked us to come on their weekly show to talk about our hereditary journey with bipolar disorder and anxiety and shed light on all things mental health.

It was a real pleasure to talk all about our lives and how my Dad was diagnosed with bipolar just 4 years before me.

Trigger warning: discusses suicidal ideation and psychosis.


Thanks Penny and Thomas! We hope it battles stigma around this much misunderstood illness. Watch here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fghp8RNTvX0

Reflecting on a New Year 2022: Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful by Eleanor

(image: Neon Filter)

When I was a child, growing up in Hertfordshire, my biggest dream (other than being a wife and mummy one day, because yes even then I dreamt of that) was to be an actress in the West End. I could think of nothing more exciting than standing on a stage, performing and I wanted to go to drama school from age 11. I went in the end at age 23 to do my masters degree at Royal Central in London, after doing a 3 year degree featuring Drama at Goldsmiths. I was so excited to have achieved a dream of mine, even though for many reasons I decided not to act professionally.

However, sometimes, long held dreams, things that are part of the core of our being, of our inner identity, can be a little harder to achieve. Sometimes, we find ourselves on the less travelled path, we feel different from our friends and family because our lives, for whatever reason, are different. We have to consider our health in a unique way. We have to try and surrender our fears to the universe and hope that everything will work out OK.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16, I was still a child and I didn’t know what it would feel like to be an adult, needing a cocktail of medication daily in order to have stable brain chemistry. And how this medication might affect my body and mind- and considering children in the future as a woman with bipolar and all that brings- discussions with psychiatrists, difficult decisions to be made, do I carry my own baby, what will make things safer for me?

As I look ahead to 2022, I know that our dreams are there to be fulfilled. I know that I must trust and have faith that whatever happens, whatever 2022 brings to us, I will always have hope and I know my husband will too.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2022 – may all our dreams manifest for the good.

Eleanor x

Managing Our Mental Health During Christmas And The Festive Season by Eleanor

(image: Jonathan Borba: Pexels)

Its nearly here everyone! Just 4 days until our country (the UK) stops and celebrates Christmas (or uses the day as a chance to see family because they’re off work, like we do!).

The pressure is taken off for me during this period because its just a chance for relaxation for us as we’re Jewish, we don’t have the same expectations for the day as others. However, I know for many people Christmas is a stressful time where they see family they don’t normally see and may feel they have to hide how they are truly feeling with their mental health. The pressures are also on for the cost of food and gifts during this time and many people get into debt too.

We already have less daylight during this time and with the Covid pandemic a lot of people are feeling lower and more anxious . This has been the new normal for us all for over a year and particularly here in England where we have record numbers of Omicron Covid cases- but aren’t yet in lockdown.

I know I have been feeling a bit more anxious lately to do with Covid and other things… but I am also going to be kind to myself and give myself a break and time off work to relax also! I love sitting eating Quality street or a Terrys chocolate orange (yum) with loved ones and watching a good film like The Holiday… thats my favourite. Second is the Muppets Christmas Carol. Third Love Actually. Whats yours?

(image: lilartsy: Pexels)

I am lucky my bipolar is in remission and I am stable on medication. So I don’t have to worry about severe depressive or manic episodes right now. But, I still need to look after myself or practise self care- lots of sleep, not too much sugar, and check in with myself or my therapist if needed if my anxiety flares.

Obviously, over Christmas lots of NHS mental health professionals aren’t available but you can reach out to helplines such as Samaritans 116 123 (UK) if you need someone to talk to who will just listen.

You can also text SHOUT to 85258 if you’re in crisis and need support.

In an emergency, if you have a phone line to a hospital outpatient crisis team that are working over Christmas, call that and if not in an emergency you may have to go to Accident and Emergency (but there could be long waits).

Mind have an amazing list of helplines, organisations and food banks such as Trussell Trust for over the Christmas period should you need, click here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/christmas-and-mental-health/useful-contacts/

Wishing you all a very happy holidays, a peaceful festive season. This time can also be hard for people with alcohol or drug addictions or eating disorders, as Christmas is often a time with plenty of alcohol and triggering things.

Remember that its OK to be struggling but tell people you trust and reach for support. May your Christmas/ holiday season be merry and bright- and if it isn’t, remember things can get better from here, you can recover and you can be helped. Always tell someone you trust if you feel suicidal or want to harm yourself, so you can be protected and helped through these feelings.

Thank you for all your support this year,

Love,

Eleanor



Sophie Says It’s Okay Not To Be Okay- Esther Marshall Book Review by Eleanor

(image: Esther Marshall/ Sophie Says)

I am absolutely delighted to read and review this incredible childrens book from the Sophie Says series by author and award winning campaigner Esther Marshall (with illustrator Buzz Burry).

Esther’s story is close to my heart as not only is she from my own community but her late sister Rebecca z’l was a doctor who had bipolar disorder and sadly passed away a few years ago, while Esther was writing her second book. Esther has shared that it was her sister who encouraged and inspired her idea to write the childrens books that she couldn’t see for her own child (in terms of positive messages, inspiring rolemodels and diverse characters in terms of both race and gender). Through her sister’s struggles, Esther also began to include positive mental health messages on talking and sharing emotions, self belief and self esteem too.

Esther has said,

“I knew from the second my son was born I wanted to teach him that girls were just as strong and powerful as boys, that people from different backgrounds to him could teach him things and he should listen and be kind to everyone.
The problem was, all the books I could find to read to him had:

  • Mostly male characters (even the animals)
  • Little to no diversity or representation
  • No female role models he could look up to

So I decided that if I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read to my son, I’d better write my own.

I want all children to know and believe that they can achieve their dreams regardless of gender, race, religion or class”,

Esther at Sophie Says has not only thought about what stories she wants to tell through the books, but what messages children reading them will take and absorb. She has partnered with illustrator Buzz Burry and comments, ‘we are helping children bypass harmful stereotypes before they set in by changing the face of children’s literature. Our mission is to enable all children to grow up feeling equipped and empowered to face their futures. To learn more about themselves, others and the world around them. We are helping parents to teach their children positive messages and providing a toolkit to navigate some of the trickier conversations.

These books teach children about:

• Emotional Resilience
• Mental health
• Equal opportunities
• Relatable representation 
• Diversity and inclusion
• Self-belief
• Responsible messaging 

Esther very kindly gifted me copies of her first two books- Sophie Says I Can I will– which is about a little girl Sophie with big dreams and no limits. and Sophie Says It’s Okay Not To Be Okay which focuses on Sophie, Jordyn and Jamie on their journey as they learn that it’s okay to talk about their feelings and it’s okay not to be okay. The books are for children in the early years, ages 3-7 years and reading the books with either parents, carers or teachers is recommended. Esther told me she has ‘tried to create books which cater to both home and school so that it can be embedded in both parts of a child’s life and become the foundation of them building resilience at an early age.’

Sophie Says It’s Okay not to be Okay is a very special book- and one of the first I have seen to address children’s mental health in an age appropriate way, to teach children about their emotions and that it’s OK to feel sad, scared or worried. The book follows Jamie who is looking down and feeling sad but whose best friends Sophie and Jordyn help him through and Sophie tells him ‘its okay not to be okay’. They take him to the zoo to help him feel better and speak to Sophie’s older sister Meghan who is wise and will give good advice. Esther named the character after Meghan, Duchess of Sussex who she met with Prince Harry and other young leaders and was inspired by (she gave them a copy of the book too!)

Meghan (the character) says this important message,

It’s okay to be sad and okay to feel down. Just make sure you have good friends around. There may be days when you feel you’re alone but around us, you’ll always be at home. Its Okay not to be okay”

The book also reinforces self belief and esteem , reiterating that ‘YOU are enough!’ and encourages children to talk about their feelings because it can help. Jamie then says he will speak about his feelings in a place he feels safe in the zoo,

I don’t really know how to describe how I feel
As I can’t work out what’s in my head and what’s real.

He said ‘ a smile may be what you see, but that’s not what I feel inside me

There are times I feel quite alone because these feelings are unknown

Some days I’m happy and some days I’m sad and other days I just feel so bad’

(image: Esther Marshall/Buzz Burry/Sophie Says)

His friends then show him support and love, take him to the funfair, all while reinforcing positive kindness and support- ‘Yes we can!” . The book talks positively about the kindness of friendships always being a safe space to talk. This is so important for children particularly in the early years who are learning to understand their feelings.

Esthers writing is beautiful- on one of the last pages of the book she says ‘Whatever you do, be kind, you never know what’s going on in someone’s mind’.

The book was informed by her sister Rebecca’s struggle with mental illness (bipolar disorder). Esther has said, ‘I had always planned to write another book all around mental health to help children understand their feelings and talk about them more openly, and I sadly lost my sister, Rebecca, to mental illness as I was writing it. So the second book Sophie Says It’s Okay not to be Okay is dedicated to her memory’.

Esther wanted to amplify the message and so it was released on World Mental Health Day. The book provides a toolkit for parents who want to help their children to express their own emotions.

She has been visiting schools and doing zoom readings of her book to share the messages for her. Esther told me, I would love that as a result of children reading the Sophie Says books that children understand these vitally important lessons through a fun way of learning and it helps them build resilience and confidence to go out and achieve their full potential whilst being able to understand and manage both their physical and mental health. .’.

Esther is a true force of nature and someone who inspires me so much. She has just released a third book in the series Sophie Says Be Proud of Who You Are which is about Sophie and the rest of the Sophie Says crew on their exciting seaside adventure as they help their friend Priya build her confidence, as they guide her through believing in herself and being proud of who she is. The perfect book to help your child build their confidence and self esteem!

I would recommend the Sophie Says books to all parents, teachers and carers of young children. I can’t wait to see how this brand grows and what Esther achieves (she has achieved so much already!). She should be rightly proud of her work and all she has created.

To learn more about Sophie Says and buy the books click here

You can read Esthers blog dedicated to her sister here: https://www.sophiesaysofficial.com/blogs/dear-rebecca. (If you are over 18 as contains triggering content)

About Esther

Hi, I’m the founder of Sophie Says and the author of the books within the series. The idea for the first book (Sophie Says I Can, I Will) came to me after having my son, Asher (who is the first and most important reader of all the books!).

I knew I wanted him to grow up understanding that both girls and boys could achieve anything that they set their minds to, but I couldn’t find any books that featured a female lead character (a human one, not an animal one!) that really represented the message I wanted to teach him. So I thought, if I can’t find the story I want to tell, I’d better write it myself.

I was gifted two books in exchange for an honest review. Any links are unpaid. These books are incredible.