Living with Uncertainty- Life and Journeys with Mental Illness

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*Trigger warning- talks about severe depression. Please be careful when reading*

There is so much I want to write on here that I havn’t yet written. Some topics  are too deep or painful for me to address- particularly surrounding certain aspects of previous hospitalisations. I hope one day I can share these with you. However, as a writer, I often get into the flow and just want to spill whats in my heart. So, this blog is about what living with mental illness can mean- its uncertainty and coming to terms with my own brain.

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder, a mood disorder, as a teenager. I was poorly with depression and a mixed state in hospital when diagnosed and I don’t think fully came to terms with what the diagnosis meant until a few years later.

Being diagnosed so young instilled a lot of fear in me and a lot of avoidance. I decided not to drink alcohol or try drugs- as I didn’t know their effect on my brain and I was already  pretty anti drugs for many reasons. I knew my illness meant that the chemistry in my brain wasnt the same as everyone else without it- I had either too little seretonin causing depression, or too much causing hypomania and manic episodes. I felt often that despite taking mood stabilising medication and anti depressants and tablets to help PMS- that everything was uncertain. I had no idea when the next episode would strike- or if I would  be well enough recognise it.

I am lucky. My illness is very severe when it happens. Yet, I went 10 years without a manic episode or hospitalisation, though I suffered from acute depression that got truly so bad I didn’t want to be here anymore- which is quite a common side effect of being depressed. I was able to be supported at home and with my psychiatrist. I knew it was my depressed thoughts and not me- but this uncertainty  was incredibly stressful to myself and my family. I spent years being depressed and anxious and trying (and failing at times) to function- because my medication wasn’t holding me and my brain correctly.

Despite the uncertainty of so many things- dating, the effect of stressors in my life, work, etc- I am doing well at the moment. However, the uncertainty of the illness makes you worry that you could suddenly get ill again.

I practise a lot of self care- try to get to bed early, eat well, take my medication, tell my family or friends if feeling low etc. However, I always live with the knowledge that my Bipolar may pop up at different times in my life- and important times.

Due to having had this for 13 years- I am used to living with the chronic nature of my mental health condition. It can still be frightening and distressing and down right annoying. Yet, with the right support network and medical team, I know I can stay well for as long as my brain allows me- and I can get well and recover.

Recovery makes you stronger, Living through the pain makes you stronger, Surviving an episode makes you stronger.

You are not alone.

Guest post by Marcus – 7 Tips to Improve the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as manic depression) is a condition characterized by mood oscillations- moving between high and low mood. A person suffering from bipolar disorder experiences mood changes and these changes are often erratic and unforeseen.

Symptoms of this disorder regularly change and that is one of the reasons why it can be such a difficult condition to treat and keep a consistent state of mood and activity for sufferers. However, it is possible!

Little things can help and here are 7 tips that might just help make symptoms slightly better:

  1. Make sure you get the Right Amount of Sleep

People who suffer from bipolar disorder often have erratic sleeping patterns. It is believed that one-quarter of these cases sleep too much at night while about a one-third experience difficulty in falling sleep, thereby suffering from insomnia.

As irregular sleeping patterns may precipitate depressive episodes, experts advise setting up an alarm to ensure one gets up at the same time each morning as well as setting fixed hours for sleep in the evening so that the body can adapt to this necessary function.

  1. Consistently take your prescribed Medication

According to Cara Hoepner, a nurse practitioner who also has this condition, discipline is the key when it comes to taking medication prescribed for bipolar disorder. However, she also agrees this can be a difficult task, seeing as some of the medications commonly prescribed (such as Lithium) require constant monitoring via blood tests to ensure they do not become harmful to the patient. Lithium can be toxic in rare cases and so its important to work with a good medical team.

Coupled with the fact that skipping medication will often trigger a relapse, she advises that all patients with this condition should exercise diligence and discipline in taking their meds. Tablet boxes can be very helpful for multiple medications.

  1. Shun Drugs and Alcohol

An expert in bipolar disorder, Bearden, claims that nearly half of patients of bipolar disorder have problems with substance abuse. He also states that this is one of the major reasons why many treatments do not succeed, due to it impeding recovery.

He therefore advises that while alcohol may appear a welcome refuge for bipolar patients in that it temporarily relieves depression, the mere fact that it triggers a depressive state in the brain as well as erratic sleeping patterns and mood oscillations, goes against the purpose. In addition, alcohol and drugs may impair cognitive functioning and hinder chances of  recovery- they exacerbate high and low episodes in the condition.

  1. Invest in Therapy

One of the best ways to improve bipolar disorder symptoms is to invest in therapy, including talking therapies, CBT, art therapy and more. While it may seem unappealing to many patients, therapy actually goes a long way in improving their chances of recovery.

Cognitive behavioural therapy helps patients understand and interpret events and thoughts, thereby enabling them to get back to their normal routine. There are other therapies which assist recovery and maintaining stable relationships .

  1. Learn the Triggers

Learning the triggers of bipolar disorder may help the patient nip the episode in the bud by actually dealing with these triggers before they develop into a full-blown episode.

Some of the triggers that make people unwell include sleep deprivation, social isolation and stressors eg divorce, death, change or job or having a baby . Other major changes in your life may also trigger depressive or manic tendencies, especially if they disrupt your routine so be careful to look after yourself in times of high stress.

  1. Learn the Side Effects

The most common side effect of taking Lithium or other anti psychotic medication  is metabolic syndrome, a side effect that majorly involves the impairment in the functionality of the kidney and the pancreas. A spectrum of effects such as high cholesterol, insulin resistance and weight gain would ensue, and this is where you need to deal with the to keep optimal health. A healthy diet and exercise is always important.

  1. Connect with Friends and Family (Support Network)

If you have a good support network, its so important to share how you are feeling with    close relations or best friends. By discussing your problems with those you trust, they hopefully will provide the emotional support needed to get through difficulties and help recommend further treatment or come with you to the Doctor.

In a nut shell, do not sit back and let your mood disorder take over without help. Speak out and let your friends and family help you out. In some families, there is a stigma so please do be careful as to who you let in when you are unwell.

Living with bipolar disorder is not an easy experience. However, by understanding how to deal with the symptoms, you can certainly improve your symptoms to keep you healthy and well. Read widely and remember that however debilitating episodes can be, Bipolar can be managed on medication and with therapy and. support. You are not alone.

Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives

The Counsellors Cafe Blog Collaboration: Social Anxiety- I will get There

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(image:google images)

Hi everyone,

I am delighted to announce a collaboration with the wonderful people (Dionne and Victoria) at The Counsellors Cafe. Counsellors cafe is a community for people to share articles and knowledge about their mental health, and links therapists and sufferers.

I have written a blog for them on living with social anxiety which was published yesterday!

I wrote this piece  on social anxiety so I can write with my heart without feeling ashamed and can share what it is like to live with mental ill health at times. This is something that has been a part of my life since I was 15 years old and I will be 28 this year. It doesn’t feel like 13 years have passed since I first got sick, but its true that time definitely passes quickly. ‘

 You can read it here and at their website:  http://www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk/single-post/2016/11/01/I-Will-Get-There

For more see: http://www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk/

#beurownlight

Gratitude to you: with thanks

Recently I have been having the opportunity to grow my little blog here and it is amazingly being read around the world. From the UK to Israel, The USA and Canada to Australia, Italy, Germany, Spain,  Norway, Finland, Croatia, Monaco, Indonesia, India, Peru, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, South Africa, Uruguay, Nigeria and Sudan.. I am amazed each day by where people are reading from and I am so so thankful. I write this not to brag but just because its so wonderful for me to reach people from different cultures. 🙂

We now have almost 60 dedicated WordPress followers, over 1,000 followers on Twitter, almost 700 in Instagram and 130 of my close friends and family on Facebook. This week, inspirational acid attack survivor Katie Piper liked one of our posts on Instagram about positive affirmation which was incredibly exciting!

We hope to grow the blog to spread light around the world for those suffering with mental health issues. I love receiving your supportive comments and sharing in online conversations with you all.

Today I am feeling so happy and thank you for engaging. I am also excited to announce a blog collaboration with Counsellors Cafe UK website, which will hopefully be posted in the next few weeks  and  Jewish Association of Mental Illness, who may be using my blog posts in the new year.

I am also thankful to Louie Rethink Mental Illness and Tim at Time to Change for getting me published before I even started publicising my blog.

With love xxxthankyou1

An amazing Care Coordinator

I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder when I was just 16 years old. During the years that followed I had some brilliant psychiatrists and some dull ones that I didn’t click well with, met several good psychologists and had some excellent therapists for talking therapy or CBT. However, this post is dedicated to my old Care Coordinator who finished working with me a month or so ago and I just want to talk a bit about the role, what it entails and how much she aided my recovery.

When you have had an acute episode of mental illness (which may have included a hospital stay or day unit) , you may be assigned what is known as a Care Coordinator. Care Coordinators are usually mental health nurses trained to coordinate care between you, the client and the whole mental health team- whether thats a support worker, psychiatrist, psychologist. They talk to you about how you are feeling, give you advice and speak to other professionals on your behalf.

After my hospitalisation in 2014, I was assigned a truly lovely, wonderful woman to help aid me in my recovery at home. I am writing about her because sometimes its very rare to click  so well with someone, for someone to be so positive and upbeat and kind.

When I met my Care Coordinator, I was still very depressed and anxious, in my adjustment from coming out of hospital on a psychiatric ward. She used to come and sometimes I wouldn’t want to see her because I was feeling low or anxious and didn’t want to talk. We worked together for a year and she listened to all my fears about being maid of honour for my sisters wedding, getting back into work, dating, keeping up friendships with anxiety and how I was going to rebuild my life and cope again.

She provided a listening ear and helping hand in a time of immense darkness.

She watched me as I struggled to hold down work, recommending a support worker for me, and sessions with a psychologist, I had a course of 10 sessions. She asked if she needed to help me with housing or benefits (here in the UK this is money from the government if you are sick). Luckily I have a good family support network but my Care Coord became like a good friend to all of us and I grew to love our sessions and enjoy talking to her about my life, her life and its similarities :).

After 6 months to a year of being back to health and not acutely unwell any more, my Care Coord had to move on to help other people who were more ill than me. However, she will always have a special place in my heart for the joy and positivity she helped me find and I don’t think I will ever forget her.

Welcome and collaborations.

I just wanted to welcome all my new followers here on WordPress and on Twitter and Instagram to Be Ur Own Light.

At Be Ur Own Light, I have lived experience of bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and depression. However, this blog is all about positivity, recovery, support and resilience.

I want to welcome you to my blogging community here and to announce we have some exciting blog collaborations to come.

If you would like to feature a guest post or for me to write a bespoke blog for your page- just email me at beurownlight@gmail.com

Wishing everyone a happy Friday! and recommending Katie Pipers book of positive affirmations today. They always get my day started off feeling positive!

Life update: Managing anxiety- When you wake up feeling overwhelmed.

It has been a while since I wrote an update about my life and mental health. Generally, I am doing OK and finding that I can cope with the anxiety, yet there are days when I wake up and feel overwhelmed and like I need peace and quiet.

I wrote this the other day,

Sometimes there are times when I will wake up and just feel so overwhelmed by the day that I cancel my plans and have to be quiet. Its like the internal me needs calm and peace and can’t get it without having space to breathe and to be.

I need breathing space from the world today and its madness in order to strengthen and restore me and build me back up. Peace and serenity and calm.’

This is quite an accurate description of how I feel sometimes. Its learning how to manage those feelings so it doesn’t ruin my morning/ whole day. Its about finding the positivity in the mundane, getting enough rest, eating well and trying my best to keep going.

Today I will be seeing my counsellor and catching up on the past few weeks. We have had a lot of Jewish festivals and spending time with friends, family, loved ones- so there has been a lot of socialising. At times, the festivals make me want to withdraw but there are also times when I feel stronger and happy and enjoy them also.

Yesterday my little step niece who is 3, came over with my step bro and his wife. It was so lovely to see her- she is adorable.

In terms of work, I am still looking at what is out there and working for my Dad in the mean time. My panic attacks have lessened so its just about finding a job thats right for me.

Lastly, Be Ur Own Light has a new Guest posts tab. Our first guest post is by Aryeh who has clinical depression and anxiety. Well done Aryeh for speaking out! 

Time to Change- ‘Having Bipolar is not Shameful’.

This week, I achieved one of my dreams and goals to write a blog published by the anti discrimination charity ‘Time to Change’. They are a UK mental health charity partnered with Rethink and Mind, to tackle stigma against mental illness in the UK.

My blog was shared over 150 times and liked almost 500 times on Facebook, in the first day and a half. This is amazing. I have heard from people who are suicidal or struggling with bipolar and other mental health issues. I am so thankful to the charity for publishing it and giving me a platform to share my story.

You can read the blog here:

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/i-cannot-imagine-having-bipolar-without-support-networksarahtime