A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

mooddis1

(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

demilovato1

(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

Advertisements

Metro article extract by Eleanor: ‘My Dad and I have helped each other through our Bipolar disorder’

Our founder Eleanor and her Dad shared their story with Metro.co.uk for Fathers Day and Dads Mental Health Day. Here is an extract:

I am the child of a father with bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with the same condition aged 16 in 2004 – this was only four years after my dad was diagnosed at the age of 44. Our story is a special and unique one, and dad and I have a strong bond as a result.

However, it has not always been easy for me and my family.  Growing up with my mum, dad and younger sister in Hertfordshire, I didn’t fully know that my dad had serious mental health issues until my teenage years. I was largely sheltered from it by my mum and my loving grandparents as a child. My grandparents would look after us when dad was ill with depression and mum had to work.

I am the eldest, and being the child of someone with a mental illness did bring its own challenges. I have always felt a sense of duty and responsibility to look after my sister and both my parents, despite receiving a lot of love and care. This sentiment has meant that I have always felt a need to look after those around me, and make sure my dad is stable with his health.

Many children of those with serious mental health issues are exposed to a lot more than I was. My childhood was largely happy. My dad was never sectioned or hospitalised and never experienced the psychosis that I have experienced with my own bipolar. There were no alcohol or drug issues in my home but dad did experience mood fluctuations with both mania and depression.

He also experienced panic attacks that stopped him from working. Dad remembers having these when I was just four-years-old. In 1996, he had his first bout of severe depression and anxiety. His panic attacks meant that he had to stop working at his job in finance after collapsing there.

Mum became the breadwinner, with two children under seven. My sister was only five-years-old. I know this wasn’t easy for anyone though I don’t fully remember it. I have been told that dad was often not around during the day due to his depression. He would retreat into his bed and sleep, but would come and see us in the evenings, once we came home from school.

I do remember visiting him in hospital one time after his severe panic made him collapse in the street. He was having his heart monitored to rule out a heart attack and was eventually discharged home.

Dad was never referred to a psychiatrist and he believes this is why his bipolar was undiagnosed for so long. He gradually recovered with antidepressant medication and support from the GP and my mum.

He slowly coaxed himself out of bed and out the house to walk down the road to buy a paper. This would take several hours. His depression lifted and he eventually went back to work. Life was easier for our family for a while, although financially, things were tight and there was always a risk my dad might not be able to work.

 

 

Read the rest of the article : https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/17/my-dad-and-i-have-helped-each-other-through-bipolar-disorder-heres-our-story-7627817/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

How Love Island helps my mental health.

I first discovered the reality dating show Love Island back in 2016, when it returned for its second series.

At first, I didn’t expect a great amount of entertainment, but what I found is that among the frivolity and fake tans, there’s a wonderful exploration of human relationships. Each night at 9pm, you can lose yourself in the dating lives of others.

I suffer from anxiety and have bipolar disorder, and this element of escapism has helped with my mental health issues.

In the past I’ve suffered from panic attacks linked to social anxiety and, at times, stress in the workplace. A distracting outlet like Love Island allows me to shake off the adrenaline highs and the depressive lows that follow.

Instead of feeling anxious or having negative thoughts swirling around in my brain, I can watch Love Island and occupy my mind, while also connecting with other fans online.

Whether its watching someone get ‘pied off’ (rejected) or couples getting together, there is always something going on.

That’s what makes Love Island so addictive and calming, I often feel less anxious once I’ve watched an episode.

There are many humourous elements on the show including bromances (last years one between Kem and Chris and their rapping was a sight to behold) and people form tight friendship groups and attachments very quickly.

Instead of thinking about my daily worries, I’m wondering what’s going on in the contestants’ lives. Whether like last year we followed the ups and downs of Chris and Olivia, or Camilla finally finding her man, watching them build relationships, go on dates and play games is truly fascinating.

Of course, escapism doesn’t replace the support you get from a doctor, counsellor or family and friends.

While personally I’ve had a positive experience watching Love Island, the show has been criticised for exacerbating mental health issues for viewers and for its contestants, too.

Where vulnerability is concerned, all reality TV can influence people, for good or for bad,’ explains Jo Hemmings, a behavioural media and celebrity psychologist.

While it is very often real people in real time, it isn’t in fact a reflection of true reality at all and so it’s important to distinguish that what we are watching is a made-for-entertainment TV series, which may or may not bear any similarity to real life as we live it.

‘My advice would be if it brings you pleasure, enjoy it – but if it makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, it’s best to watch something else.

‘The Love Island contestants are well-cared for psychologically – assessed before the show and supported throughout. As a reality TV series, it is known for a few enduring relationships and friendships, so again I think they are treated with care and compassion off screen.’

At times, the show promotes a body image that can feel unrealistic, especially for someone like myself, having had a lot of therapy to improve my self-esteem.

Due to the perfect body image presented in can impact peoples self esteem especially if they have an eating disorder.

I asked my Twitter followers whether Love Island was good for our mental health? The most striking issue they presented to me was body image.

Edward Clements  ‘ I can see how it will maybe affect people who are less confident with their body image and cause them to feel worse. This is mainly because most of the men are always shirt less and very fit’.

Sarah TDefinitely makes me body check & compare myself to girls on programme. I wouldnt want to eat whilst watching. I am in a good place at the moment in terms of my eating disorder but if I wasn’t could be triggering. The show encourages placing value of the person in the way they look rather than their personality values too.’

So, body image is a real concern for many watching the show. This state of perfection promotes a negative body image and could harm self esteem.

Ben Edwards, relationship coach and self confidence expert agrees with this,

Reality TV shows like Love Island can of course affect our mental health both positively or negatively. Some people may find that this reignites their belief in love as unlikely couples find romance on screen, providing hope. Reality TV does not always reflect reality. It  might seem like harmless, light entertainment, we often compare ourselves because we feel something is missing. Confide in a loved one or seek professional advice if needed.’

The Love Island team said to us in a statement,
The duty of care towards all of our Islanders is always of paramount importance. Our islanders have ongoing access to an on site psychologist as well as show producers should they need it.’

I can’t wait for the next eight weeks of Love Island 2018.

It brings me joy each summer and I hope it will for you, too.

With thanks to Jo Hemmings, Ben Edwards, Love Island Press Team, Edward Clements and Sarah Tayleur for their expert comments.

Taking a Mental Health Day: Retriggering the Anxiety Cycle by Eleanor

‘Sometimes you’ve got to face the darkness to step into the Light again’– James Arthur ‘Sermon’

mentalhealthday.png

(image: rockonruby.co.uk)
I just want to start this post by saying that I am doing alright- I just have moments of bad anxiety or panic when triggered by specific issues. This week, I have been feeling more anxious than normal and when this happens I often have to take a step back, take a mental health day to rest and relax and recover.

As many of you know, I have social anxiety and this manifests in various ways. At the moment, I have issues with body image as I have put on a lot of weight over the past 5 years- partly due to medication and partly to lifestyle (I love sugar and don’t move as much). However, this means that in some situations,  my anxiety gets a bit heightened.

Early mornings are also the worst time for me in terms of anxiety so I try and do things later in the day now.

So what do my mental health days look like?

Sometimes they can involve:

– Sleeping or resting if needed for a few hours
– Watching something funny- today I watched the Windsors Royal Wedding special
– Speaking to a friend
– Eat something healthy that I love (and sometimes eating chocolate.. which I am trying to stop)
– Taking space and time from work to breathe. As I am self employed, I make my own hours so I know this isn’t the same for everyone.

Listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, doing something mindful eg colouring or going for a walk if I feel able are also good.

I am looking forward to a more restful weekend and taking care of my mental health. Once I’ve had a mental health day I usually feel better, more rested, calmer and centred.

Overwhelm is hard but it doesnt have to rule everything.

I’d love to hear about what you do when overwhelm sets in, to help ease the tension?

Love,

Eleanor x 

When Life begins to whirlwind: Finding self care. by founder Eleanor

whirlwind2
(image: Pinterest)

I havn’t written here for several weeks, because I have felt a little bit like Dorothy and Toto the dog at the start of the Wizard of Oz film, when they are caught in the hurricane.

Sometimes life sweeps you up in its path and can get very busy. This for me at the moment is not a bad thing. My boyfriend- now fiance and I got engaged about 2 weeks ago. If you didnt know (WordPress followers) he proposed to me at the Shard here in London, overlooking the sunset over the river Thames and Tower Bridge/ Tower of London. It was super romantic and very very special. We are both so excited.

However, in the community we come from, we have had to organise an engagement party and ceremony quite quickly and do all the admin that comes with coordinating families. My parents are divorced and my Mum has remarried which means we have more family than normal too.

So, getting 200 emails in just a week and a half was not easy but we did it! We also got our families together for a meal and went to visit grandparents too. As well as organising other plans.  Its been a lovely yet overwhelming time and so grateful for everyones love and kindness.

Sometimes I literally have to take myself away from planning so I can cope. I was doing a lot of it myself but decided for my health (and bank balance) that I need to get back to work properly- and do what I love, writing.

lifewhirlwind1
(image :Michelle Cruz/ AZ quotes)
When I feel overwhelm I just tell my support network and take a breather. Its the only way. Self care is hugely important.

I will also be writing an article for Metro on stress and insomnia during engagement period. Thankfully I am sleeping a lot better now but in the first few days after we announced our engagement, I struggled to sleep due to adrenaline overload.

I have also enjoyed the summer like sun here in London and being in nature at the weekend (we had a bank holiday- day off work).

Sometimes life does feel like a whirlwind- whether that is positive or negative. What is important is to ride out the storm and take time for you. This is what I am learning….

Love,

Eleanor    xx

What happens during a Manic episode: Bipolar One Disorder Tales by founder Eleanor

healthyplace1.jpg

When most people think of bipolar disorder, they may think of the two opposing poles that make up the illness. High and low. Manic and depressed. Many also believe that all people with bipolar flit between these moods constantly and that the illness is severe or alike in everyone who has it. This is not the case.

There are two types of bipolar disorder. I have the first one – Bipolar affective One disorder, which means that I have serious manic episodes which include psychosis (loss of touch with reality). This has happened to me twice in my life and both times I have needed hospitalisation. Bipolar two is characterised by lesser manic episodes (hypomania) and more mixed states.

mania2

(image: https://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/mood-swings.htm)

Being Bipolar One is very challenging. When I get ill, I get really really sick. Loss of insight, loss of reality, needing anti psychotic medicines now- ill. Ill to the point of being sectioned under the mental health act due to lack judgement and insight. Believing that my family are out to get me and people are going to harm me – ill.  Really unwell.

When one of these serious manic episodes strikes for me, my thoughts begin racing and I can’t concentrate. I don’t sleep, I am more creative in the short term but a gibbering wreck in the long term. I start believing I can do things that I can’t rationally. I am super vulnerable and I speak much faster. I may not make much sense and when the delusions begin, I start believing I am going to be harmed.

Luckily, these episodes are kept at bay by a host of excellent medications including Lithium and Quetaipine. I also take anti depressants to keep the low periods at bay in my life.

Full blown psychosis and mania for me are very rare but they do happen. In 10 years, from 2004-2014 I did not have a hospitalisation. I was depressed and anxious but I was able to recover at home.

I had no hypomanic or manic episodes for a decade! No psychosis. One therapist even questioned my diagnosis, before my 2014 hospitalisation.

Mania for me means danger. That danger means I am more vulnerable. I have to be very careful who I surround myself with during those times. I don’t drink alcohol to excess or take drugs, but some with this kind of mania do. Or they spend lots of money or engage in risk taking behaviours such as sexual activity.

I have learnt that as long as I take my medication regularly, get enough sleep, eat well (and don’t engage in long haul travel) that I can keep my symptoms at bay. If my medicines work! (this is always a fear.. that they could stop working).

Mania for me strikes out of the blue sometimes. I also have to be careful that my mood stabiliser medicine is holding me- as with high doses of anti depressants, mania can be triggered without it.

When in psychosis in hospital I have thought the following untrue delusions

– I am being harmed by my family
– There are CCTV cameras watching and filming me in my bedroom/ hospital room
– I have been abused in some way (my mind convinces itself)
– I am being held by a criminal gang (in hospital)

These delusions have always disappeared over time, with excellent care from psychiatrists and psychologists, anti psychotic medicine and good support from family.

I don’t get these when well, and rarely have to go through them. I am learning to accept that my brain chemistry is not the same as other people and having bipolar, a chronic illness, is not my fault. I just do the best I can to manage symptoms and keep myself as well as possible.
If you want to share your story of mania and bipolar, please do write below.

There is hope and recovery after mania. Thank you to all on the Facebook group who voted for this one.  

Love, Eleanor x

 

Dating with a Mental Illness: for Glamourmagazine.co.uk by our founder Eleanor

Here is an extract from an article I wrote for Glamour UK Magazine (online) which was a dream come true. It is my true story about what dating with bipolar and social anxiety is like. I hope it helps you. For full article see link at the end:

glamour
(image: from stock and Glamour)

According to the mental health charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England alone, 1 in 6 people report experiencing depression or anxiety every single week. Eleanor Segall is one of those six, having lived with bipolar disorder for 13 years. Here, she shares her candid account of what so many millennials struggle with every single day: finding love while secretly battling a mental health disorder. Eleanor reveals in honest detail the judgement she faced in her quest for “The One” and how she finally learnt to open up about the taboo illness and let herself fall in love.

“I sat on my bed with tears running down my face. ‘I have something to tell you’, I said to my boyfriend, two months into dating.

“It isn’t easy and I wanted to tell you sooner but I didn’t want to share it too soon. Three years ago, I was hospitalised for my bipolar disorder. I didn’t want to tell you, in case you saw me differently or thought I was ‘crazy’. I wanted you to get to know me for me and see my personality and who I really am without it.”

He looked at me with genuine care and said, “Eleanor it doesn’t matter. I want to be with you for you, the fact you have an illness doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I want to be educated on it. Tell me more.”

So, for two hours, I told him everything. I told him how I had been diagnosed at 16 with bipolar affective disorder and how it may run in my family. I told him there could be times when I would be unwell with severe depression or mania and would have to stop working, that I had had psychosis in the past – but that I was medicated with Lithium and anti depressants to hold my moods.

I told him I had been hospitalised as a teenager and, at aged 25, my life had been far from easy, but that the love of my family and support from my medical team, had saved my life. He listened, supported and held no stigma towards me or my illness. It was a revelation after many years of dating men that may not have always understood how best to support me or for whom I was not ‘the one’.

With disclosure of a mental health condition and because I was diagnosed so young, there were many years of dating fear for me. I feared others judgement of the fact I had bipolar and at times this turned into anxiety prior to going on dates.

I was worried that people would think I was different or not worthy enough and when I look back, that is because I was struggling to deal with how I saw myself. As a teenager, you don’t want to be different, you want to fit in and as I reached my early 20’s, I began to be very anxious about dating. My self esteem had taken a battering as well as I had had my heart broken in a past relationship, which led to depression and anxiety.

I survived the heartbreak, however, I knew that I wanted to settle down with someone and have a family, but I didn’t know if it would ever be possible. Particularly after I was in hospital, I had no idea whether there would be a man who could deal with my illness and all it can entail.

There were so many times when I cancelled dates (often blind ones set up through well meaning friends or family) because I would get so nervous, my heart would race and I would be terrified that they would see through the well cultivated veneer. On first and second dates particularly I always felt I was hiding something: my mental health past.

But I wasn’t alone. According to the mental health charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England alone, 1 in 6 people report experiencing depression or anxiety each week.

Celebrities including Stephen Fry, Britney Spears, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Demi Lovato have all talked about their struggles with bipolar disorder.

A year and a half after I left hospital and had recovered, I began to date again and signed up to an online dating website to meet new people, set up through acquaintances. The social anxiety was at its height and I often had to cancel dates two or three times before meeting. Some men gave up on me due to this, but some understood.

A year and a half after being fully back on the dating scene, I met my current boyfriend. We clicked from our first date in a coffee shop and our second date (drinks at a lovely local pub).

Read more and full article here: http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/dating-with-a-mental-illness

Extract from my latest Metro.co.uk article: 6 people share their experiences of friendship during Mental Illness

metrofriends

(image: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I have bipolar disorder and four years ago I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode.

Without the love, kindness and support of my friends, I definitely would not have recovered as well.

Their support reminds me I am not alone and helps me to feel loved and safe. But mental ill health can be frightening for those who do not understand it, and sometimes friendships can be lost when one person experiences a mental health condition.

Some people may find it hard to cope with symptoms of a friend’s illness and, as such, cut ties or back away.

Jessica Valentine, psychologist at the Brighton Wellness Centre spoke to Metro.co.uk. She says: ‘Sometimes having a friend with a mental health illness can be draining. ‘On the other hand, it’s good to experience the journey of mental health; the ups and the downs, from a personal level. ‘You really get to ‘feel’ your friend come out of the depression. And, it somewhat makes you feel that you are living it too, side by side, helping them.’

The Mental Health Foundation explains that friendship can ‘play a key role in helping someone live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it.

It advises that many people who manage to hold onto friendships while experiencing a mental health condition can see those friendships become stronger as a result.

I wanted to see the role of friendships in other peoples’ lives, either when they were coping with a mental health condition, or when they had witnessed a friend in crisis.

Here six people explain their experiences:

Read their experiences and rest of article: http://metro.co.uk/2018/03/01/6-people-share-their-experiences-of-friendship-during-mental-illness-7343290/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Dispelling the Online stigma: Twitter, Antidepressants and #MedsWorkedforMe

happytruth
(image: amyransom.com)

I wasnt going to write a blog on this because it might feed the Twitter trolls. But I have decided that its really important that I speak out about whats been going on this week on there, in realm of mental health on social media. Theres been a lot of stigma against medication as well as much support for it.

This week, a study by Oxford University and published in the psychology medical journal the Lancet, found that anti depressants work and are effective in a large number of cases. It was hailed as the first major study to prove this. Some medications were found to be more effective than others, but it provided a fantastic proof- that anti depressant medications do help relieve depression in many cases. They are not just a placebo pill.

However, of course, there are a large number of people who have had bad experiences with anti depressants and want to make their voices heard- yet often at the expense of those of us who it works for.

On Twitter, using the trending hasthtag #antidepressants and #medsworkedforme, I shared that anti depressants coupled with my mood stabilisers, have very much helped my bipolar disorder. My brain chemistry and illness is such that unmedicated I can have episodes of suicidal depression, psychosis and mania. My medication keeps my moods balanced and well, so I can function and live a normal life. I have been on anti depressants for almost 15 years now. I have been on fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline.

The only bad experience I ever had with them is when my previous mood stabiliser stopped working and due to an increased dose of duloxetine to relieve my depression (which it did), I tipped over into a fast and unpredictable manic episode. This is the risk that those of us with bipolar run.

Yet, by and large my experiences with meds have been hugely positive. They keep me stable and well.

Unfortunately, on Twitter, I got trolled for the first time by people sharing the following ‘helpful’ opinions (they were not helpful and highly stigmatised):

1) You should reduce your sugar intake as sugar causes highs and lows and is addictive as cocaine. If you reduce your sugar, your bipolar will improve.

(To this I had to reiterate that no medication and less sugar will make my illness worse… and that excess sugar does not cause bipolar 1 disorder.. i.e. it does not have that impact on my mood swings.. bipolar is a real illness in the brain. Reducing sugar may help with overall health but seriously you are going to tell me this?)

2) Others asked what alternative therapies I had tried- eg exercise instead of medication. I reiterated the above re psychosis and suicidal ideation. Which unfortunately cant be treated with exercise alone.

3) People shared their own stories eg the man who had multiple severe illnesses and takes no medication because ‘it shortens life span’ and its a medical fact apparently that these medications cause psychosis. (Some psychiatric meds cause side effects but psychosis- really? Also why would you tell me it will shorten my life?)

There was a lot of what I would call militant stigma against medication, either by people who fear it or have experienced negative effects.

While medication is not for everyone, we shouldn’t be shaming people for taking it. I shouldn’t be shamed for keeping my brain healthy and well through taking meds. And neither should any of you.

Make sure you fight this stigma (and the block button is always useful).

Love,

Eleanor

Extract from my article for Metro UK: How to Improve on-screen depictions of Mental Illness

metrodepiction

This is an extract from an  article our founder Eleanor Segall wrote for Metro.co.uk. To read the full article click here:

http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/21/how-to-improve-on-screen-depictions-of-mental-illness-7315828/

As someone with bipolar disorder, I am often intrigued by depictions of mental illness on TV and film. For many years, mental illness has been stigmatised, and this has been reflected on screen. Thankfully, this stigma is beginning to be broken down, but it is still present.

In her award-winning article, Mental Illness in the Media, for the International Bipolar Foundation, Hosana Tagomori, who was a high school student when she worked on the piece, wrote: ‘The media often portrays characters with mental illness as incomprehensible, tortured and convoluted… the entertainment value often gets in the way of an accurate portrayal. ‘Patients are perceived as dangerous or insane, due to the inaccurate portrayals in media, where the character is almost always hopeless, deranged, and dangerous.’ ‘It is quite easy to subconsciously absorb these misconceptions.’

Indeed, this is a challenge that those of us with mental health issues face. We want our illnesses to be portrayed correctly and accurately on screen, without having to watch stereotypes. Depictions of mental health can be disappointing

Tagomori wrote: ‘In the television series Homeland, the bipolar character always seems to be the pop-eyed, insane mess who is constantly going ballistic: ranting, drinking and screaming’. While this can be true for some people with bipolar in the middle of a manic episode, it is not a balanced approach to the illness. We know that people with bipolar disorder can often be stable and well on medication and that a long time can elapse between episodes.

Portrayals of those with mental illness as ‘insane messes’ raises dangerous misconceptions, including that people with mental health problems will never get well. For me, a brilliant representation of bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis appeared on EastEnders in 2015.

This centered around a story line for pregnant character Stacey Fowler (played by Lacey Turner), who has the disorder and experiences a psychotic episode after giving birth. Before watching the scenes in which Stacey has psychosis, I was concerned how it would be shown on screen, but I needn’t have worried. Sensitive, accurate portrayals of mental illness on screen can help to educate viewers EastEnders worked directly with the charities Mind and Bipolar UK to create the story line, so the script and performance were as accurate as possible.

In 2015, Dominic Treadwell Jones, producer of the story line spoke to the Radio Times, he said: ‘EastEnders have worked closely with Mind, Bipolar UK, other experts in the field and women with personal experience to show a story that is true and painful, while also filled with the usual twists and turns viewers have come to expect from EastEnders. Lacey is one of the most raw and intuitive actresses on TV.’

Also speaking to the Radio Times about the EastEnders story line, Clare Dolman, vice chair of Bipolar UK, said : ‘As the national charity supporting people with bipolar, we’ve been glad to work closely with the BBC on Stacey’s storyline. ‘There is a very high risk that women with bipolar will become ill when they have a child and 20-25% of them will have a postpartum psychosis, so it’s fantastic that EastEnders are raising awareness of this devastating condition.’

In the scenes where Stacey is experiencing psychosis, the character believes she is the Virgin Mary and that her baby is Jesus. She experiences delusions and auditory hallucinations. I was concerned about how I would feel watching it, but what I most felt was a sense of pride that British television was portraying bipolar correctly, sensitively and appropriately.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/21/how-to-improve-on-screen-depictions-of-mental-illness-7315828/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/