We have won the Sunshine Blogger Award!

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Thank you to Sue at http://www.myloudbipolarwhispers.com for nominating Be Ur Own Light as one of their Sunshine Bloggers! Sue wrote, ‘I believe this great group of people and their blogs bring a lot of joy and sunshine and education into the lives of many people and I also pray these lovely people have a lot of joy and sunshine in their lives every day.’

Thank you so much Sue for this beautiful accolade and for paving the way in battling stigma against bipolar disorder and mental health in general! You are a star in a dark world 🙂

So these are the rules except I can’t think of 11 people to nominate, so I will do 4!

Rules for “The Sunshine Blogger Award”

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to them.
  2. Answer the eleven questions asked.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers. (I am doing 4)
  4. Create 11 new and different questions for them to answer.
  5. List the rules.
  6. Include the “Sunshine Blogger Award” logo in your post somewhere

    Sue has asked me to provide answers to the following questions:

    How old are you?  29

    How old were you when you were diagnosed with mental illness, or other type of chronic and/or invisible illness or grief?  Diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder at 16, lived with anxiety disorder from 17/18

    Where do you live? London, UK

    What makes you happy? Sunshine, sunflowers, autumn leaves, chocolate, Reading books and of course my boyfriend, friends and family.

    What makes you angry: War, refugees still having to flee, terrorism and mental health stigma

    When was the last time you experienced mental illness stigma or any other type of stigma or discrimination? A few years ago when someone refused to set me up on a date with someone they knew due to my illness being disclosed.

    What is your favorite kind of candy?  Cadburys chocolate

    What is your favorite season and why? Autumn (Fall)- because its so cosy and I love fairy lights, hot chocolate, snuggling in blankets, autumn leaves etc.

    How long have you been blogging? Here on WordPress for almost 2 years and before that on Blogger and elsewhere for 2 years. I am a writer so am always blogging.

    Do you prefer a sunny or a cloudy/rainy day? Usually sunny but there is something very cosy about watching the rain from inside.

    I nominate the following because they are rays of light in the blogging world, sharing, writing and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They sparkle in tackling mental health stigma and I am so proud to have them as Followers of my blog.

    Alexis Rose-  https://atribeuntangled.com/

    Paul McGinley- https://paulmcginleymentalhealth.wordpress.com/

    Christina at Sea of Words- https://seaofwordsx.wordpress.com/

    Happiness Hunt Blog      https://thehappinesshunt.wordpress.com

    These are the following questions they must answer:
    1) Why did you start your blog?
    2) How long have you been blogging and what is your passion?
    3) Which country are you based and what is mental health care like there?
    4) What is your favourite movie?
    5) If you could chose one actor to play you in the film of your life who would it be?
    6) What has helped you on your recovery journeys?
    7) Where would you most want to travel to?
    8) What is your favourite food?
    9) Why do you like writing?
    10) Which song makes you smile?
    11) If you could pick a spirit animal who would you pick?

    Congratulations on the award !

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Achieving positive change in Mental Health: Guest post by Tony Weekes of Unity MHS

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My name is Tony Weekes. I feel honoured to have been invited to post on Be Ur Own Light. I have witnessed at first-hand the mental suffering of close family members. In trying to ease their suffering, I have tried, sometimes succeeded, other times failed, to surmount the problems – which they have faced – caused by the current care system’s serious lack of funding and the resulting lack of cohesion.

I am not a professional in the field of mental health but I could not sit back and do nothing. So, I founded Unity MHS, a grassroots movement to revolutionise mental health care in the United Kingdom through education, recognition and intervention.

As a not-for-profit Company limited by guarantee (not a charity), Unity has no shareholders. Therefore, our driving force is the commitment we maintain on our mission rather than personal or financial gain. Our mission is two-fold:

  • To challenge the way society views mental health.
  • To facilitate vast improvement in access to ongoing care and socio-economic empowerment for those suffering with any kind of mental ill health.

I strongly believe that when mental health is viewed with the same level of importance as physical health, the funding necessary for the care system to operate as one unified force will be made available in an instant. Additionally, considering the component parts of the current system, I believe that most of the logistics required for UK mental health care to shine already exist. It is the consistent lack of investment which has allowed the system to show great strain under the pressure it faces.

The general-public are only now becoming aware of the possible mental health crisis we face as a country, or even as a planet. The conversations are becoming increasingly more open. However, it is only a widespread shift in public opinion, which will give the greatest burden of illness in the UK the priority status and corresponding national investment it desperately needs.

Hence, I set-off on my mission by writing In my right mind – a book which seeks to tackle this crisis from angles which may never have been considered in the public domain – to instigate that shift in the public’s perception of mental health.

Moving onto the second part of our mission, we aim to facilitate improvements through ongoing education, recognition and intervention in mental health. How can this be achieved?

Education:

There are two social entities which represent what should be the front line on a proactive approach to mental health. These are our schools and our families. The teachers at the school which my children attend actively promote working in educational partnership with parents. We believe this should and will also be the case with their mental well-being. Schools and parents will be given the tools they need to build resilience and notice signs of mental distress in youngsters at home and in the classroom. This will also give us all the knowledge to observe and act accordingly in the case of adolescents or even adults showing the signs of mental illness.

At Unity, we have developed a program with this aim and are in talks with a number of schools about implementation.

 

Recognition:

The earlier that the possibility of any form of illness is recognised, the sooner it can be diagnosed and the more effectively it can be treated before it gets more serious. The importance of early-  recognition for the whole system, cannot be over-estimated. Once we have the knowledge required to notice what may be the early signs in any setting, with a good treatment plan in place then arguably any form of mental illness can be managed over time with persistence.

 

Intervention:

In many instances, in-patient care will be necessary. Arguably, this is the area where the current system is showing the greatest signs of strain as there are simply not enough beds available. This results in patients sometimes being discharged before they have received the level of care needed or in other instances, people being admitted for care hundreds of miles from home, away from their all-important support network.

For any form of serious illness, varying degrees of rehabilitation are needed to ensure that recovery from the illness can be sustained once a patient is discharged. Our greatest challenge is to generate all the resources necessary for these beds and the other resources necessary, to be made available sustainably. With the right treatment, for the right amount of time, followed by ongoing care and support in the community, social and economic empowerment would make positive long-term recovery more likely and hopefully minimise the risk of relapse.

The NHS is a world leader, Unity will also make mental health care here world renowned.

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Tony Weekes is a mental health activist and founder of grassroots movement Unity MHS and author of the book, ‘In My Right Mind’. He campaigns for better mental health and can be found at www.unity-mhs.org  and his book at www.unity-mhs.org/book. Tony can be contacted at progress@unity-mhs.org

Reading as therapy: A Lifelong book journey and Mental health

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(image: The Tiny Life)

I have always loved reading books as an escape, as a way to jump into someone elses world and on a journey with a character- whether they fall in love, travel, have difficulties in their lives and overcome them. I often have two or three books on the go and more books than shoes! My book shelves are full- and although I have a Kindle,  I still love having the actual paper book in front of me.

This led me recently to start a Book Instagram blog (bookstagram) to share what I am reading and chat with like minded people! I share what I have been reading each week and yes I am a book geek 🙂 but it fills my heart to read and share. You can join my book journey at @elsbookshelf

I studied English and Drama at University and I have always loved stories. And creating my own too. For me, reading is a kind of therapy. It helps me take my mind off my own mental health struggles and it allows me to discover new authors, new characters and get inspiration in my own writing. Mostly though, I just love the creativity and joy in reading.

Thats what its all about, finding joy in the little things.

In terms of my health, I am stable at the moment but waiting a week to see my new psychiatrist. I feel like I can’t job apply at present because I don’t know fully what I can cope with and I want to make sure I get some proper support and psychotherapy.

Will write an update at some point with it all, but in the mean time, you will find me curled up with a book or spending time with my boyfriend, friends and family. And hoping I will get better and be able to hold down work fully soon.

Anxiety Gremlins: Panic, Exhaustion and everything in between

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This post is probably the most honest one I have written (and as you all know I am pretty open about my mental health struggles).

I am completely and utterly exhausted, tired and fed up. I have been experiencing daily morning panic for 5 days, where leaving the house to go to work feels incredibly overwhelming.

This has happened to me before and I have got through it with exposure therapy and excellent support networks and medical team. I am incredibly lucky also that I work with supportive colleagues/ teams in my job, who go above and beyond to make sure I can be OK.

I am vulnerable to certain life stressors which can trigger my panic attacks and in particular morning anxiety. Due to the adrenaline and cortisol that is triggered during the panic, I feel like I have run a marathon but equally don’t want to sleep too much during the day so I am at home resting, recovering and recuperating. This may mean watching Love Island religiously, but I digress….

I feel like I am constantly on an emotional tread mill. The anxiety gremlins keep rearing their heads. This week has been particularly challenging due to the fact I have had panic attacks every morning. For me, my attacks are more emotional- I don’t tend to get palpitations or hyperventilate, I freeze like in fight or flight and then avoid. The avoidance temporarily stops symptoms but….

Avoidance is the worst thing you can do when you have an anxiety disorder. The worst. And yet we do it to feel ‘safe’ when really the feared event or trigger is not fearful at all.

I know that with support, I can get through this and feel much better. I have been recommended to the charity No Panic by a friend and yesterday I did the Yoga Nidra relxation meditation which calms the mind and body . I will keep trying to conquer the fears triggering my panic disorder- I have tried so much in the past but will have to keep going. I have been on the NHS waiting list for therapy for over a year. So I am having to do a lot of self help methods in the mean time.

Thank you everyone who has offered advice and support. Off to rest but will be back soon.

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On Pacing Myself

pace1I am very much enjoying my work at the moment- however one thing has come to the forefront and that is balancing my work and social life. I have learnt how important it is to pace myself and take things at a slower pace in order to achieve what I would like. Also, my anxiety becomes triggered if I do too much and all at once and so its really important for me to have down time to balance out the other parts of my life.

My anxiety can strike randomly and I have to cancel arrangements, which I hate doing, but is sometimes essential. I try and do too much- so this is a reminder for me to be kind to myself and take things at the right pace for me.

I think this should be applied as a general rule. I can’t be everything to everyone. I must take time to breathe and slow down and appreciate. For only then can I be truly and optimally happy.

Peer Support Work: A New Adventure

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I very much felt inspired to write today because its Friday and on Monday I begin my new job role as a Peer Support Worker for a mental health charity here in the UK.

Peer support takes people like me who have lived experience of mental health issues and are in recovery, and able to promote or assist wellness and recovery in others. This can be done through therapeutic groups, talking to service users and working in a collaborative team of occupational therapists, social workers and mental health coordinators. A lot of the work I will be doing is confidential so I won’t be able to disclose it here.

Its such an amazing- yet strange turn of events to be on the ‘other side’ (i.e. not a service user myself). I am embarking on a very new and exciting journey and very thankful to be able to help others.

I also just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who reads, likes, follows my blog. I will continue to blog and share mine and others stories.

The Serenity Prayer, Hope and Manifestation

Whenever I have felt unwell, low, hopeless and like nothing would ever change (often after experiencing a low or high bipolar episode and being unemployed/ feeling very alone), I have found that certain prayers and ideas have comforted me and helped me grow and have hope.

One of these (as well as many Jewish prayers) is the Serenity prayer. Its words give me comfort. They have even been put to a song by India Arie, whose music aims to heal others struggling with difficulties, broken hearts, stress, sadness.

So today I thought I would share it with you. I would say I am quite a spiritual person and I believe that prayers really do manifest if they are meant for you- your heart is listened too. At times when I have felt hopeless, I turned to God (if you don’t believe in God replace with the universe). And even if my prayers didn’t manifest directly at that exact moment- they often do manifest – even if it takes a year or two.

I hope this will help you feel a little comforted or healed, like it always does for me. Serenity is so important, even if it takes a long time to reach

Have hope :

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Guest Post: Teens and Internet Addiction. 4 Positive Strategies to help recovery

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This article has been written by Paradigm Treatment Centers in USA who specialise in helping vulnerable teenagers with mental health issues.  Paradigm San Francisco is a small, residential treatment programme. The adolescents who come to them for treatment  have issues they need help with including but not limited to Anxiety, Depression , ADD, Grief, Trauma,  Addiction, Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and any number of Mental or Emotional health concerns. For more information please see: http://paradigmsanfrancisco.com

Parenting a teenager today means navigating through what feels like uncharted territory because of the influence of technology. In the past, parents had to worry about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction, but at least those were fairly simple to keep out of their home. Now, the internet is found everywhere, from libraries to schools and your teen’s phone. With such easy access, it is easy to see why internet addiction has become a thing, and you can use these strategies to help your child learn how to manage their screen time.

Recognize the Signs

Internet addiction starts subtly with teens simply spending more time online. At first, you may just think that they have found a new group of friends or are passionately researching a recently acquired interest. Over time, however, the signs that it is interfering with their life will slowly start to appear. As your teen’s addiction to the internet begins to get serious, you may start to notice the following signs.


  • Preoccupation with the internet such as anxiously awaiting their next online chat session or constantly checking their social media accounts
    • Need to be online for increasing amounts of time to maintain the same level of satisfaction
    • Withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness and depression when they are forced to cut back on their screen time
    • Accidentally staying online longer than expected such as staying up all night or missing an important event due to their internet activities
    • Drop in academic performance
    • Decreased personal hygiene, although an increased interest in appearance also occurs if a teen is involved with video chatting
    • Lies about how much time they are on the internet

  • Seek Professional Support


As with any addiction, early recognition of the symptoms means that treatment can begin before it gets worse. Typically, teens with an internet addiction struggle with seeing how their time online is affecting their lifestyle. This is because they may feel as though they have more friends than they ever did before, or they may try to justify their actions by believing that researching online is a learning opportunity. Your teen may also claim that they could be doing worse things such as drugs. Since they are usually sitting safely within their home, teens with internet addiction often take longer than other teens to admit that there is a problem. For this reason, professional therapists often begin treatment by helping teens see the negative effects of their addiction. For example, learning that being online all night is contributing to their bad grades helps them get on board with ending their addiction.

Treat Coexisting Mental Health Conditions

Teens become addicted to the internet for a variety of reasons. For some, it offers a way to meet other people despite having social anxiety. Other teens may use the internet as a route to escape the pain of grieving or the apathy of depression. Figuring out your teen’s triggers for using the internet will often reveal other mental health conditions. Treating these conditions is critical for helping your teen successfully beat their addiction.

Encourage Healthy Recreational Opportunities

Once your teen has completed their treatment for internet addiction, they will need your help finding ways to fill their time. In their program, they learned how to utilize their interests to find recreational activities such as acting in a play or hiking in the mountains that reduce their drive to go online. Encourage your child to continue to explore their new interests, and plan special activities to keep them on track. For example, enrolling them in an art class or planning a family camping trip will help your teen remember that offline experiences can be even better than anything they can find online.

The internet brought to the world wonderful ways to connect and learn. Yet, many teens are falling prey to the vices of internet addiction. When you suspect there is a problem, it is important to go with your instincts and seek help because this type of addiction quickly spirals out of control. By recognizing that internet addiction is indeed real and seeking support, your teen can learn to manage their impulses through healthy activities that support their development.

 

Dark nights and Brighter Days: Music and Writing

It feels like ages since I just sat down and wrote my heart out about my own life, which is how Be Ur Own Light started. In fact this blog was a diary and once called Diary of a Nearly Thirty Year Old (as I am 28!) The level of interest in mental health writing and my blog is growing which is wonderful and I love sharing everyone’s stories and featuring guest posts from brave mental health warriors. Today though I want to update you on my story.

Thank fully, I am not depressed or too anxious these days. I have been able to go out more, see friends and family and just enjoy myself. This week my Dad and I ran two charity events at Jazz after Dark, a teeny little club in Soho, Central London. Jazz after Dark is where Amy Winehouse walked in and began her career and where she wrote part of Back to Black. Our event was in aid of a young girl who passed away this year aged just 20. Many professional singers and musicians gave their time for free for us to raise money for an ambulance , which was the dying wish of the girl who passed away.

We managed to raise £3,500 for the charity supplying the ambulance through ticket sales, a raffle and auction. My Dad put so much of it together and on the nights we worked so hard. It was a thoroughly enjoyable 2 nights and I had the chance to watch live music and meet acquaintances and see old friends. I was so thankful to feel comfortable doing this and for feeling so happy at what we all achieved.

Additionally, my cousin got engaged last weekend which was lovely, we had a family party for him.

I am also contemplating a new career in writing professionally. I have always written, journalled, wrote poetry and did English at university.. I always have used writing as an outlet. However, I want to share my story in overcoming adversity and living with mental health issues. I have been so lucky to already have collaborated with people and 2 big mental health charities. So this journey is new and exciting and rewarding. I thank you for reading here in my little corner of the internet and for following the journey together.