Alzheimers: How to help a loved one after their diagnosis: Guest blog by Hannah Boothe

Alone elderly man sitting on the wheelchair and holding a walking stick

(image: H Boothe)

The onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms in a loved one can bring one of the most challenging times of your life to you, as well as the one you love. How you handle this period will set the precedence for how your relationship with each other will continue as the symptoms get worse over time. Don’t let their diagnosis mean the end of your relationship. Find ways of helping along the way so you can draw closer to each other instead.

 

Help with Early Detection

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can make all the difference when it comes to how severe it gets over time. If your loved one has not yet been diagnosed, you can urge them to have detection tests performed to catch the development of Alzheimer’s early. Some tests monitor the development of certain proteins, called prions, that are directly involved with the onset of Alzheimer’s.

These are proteins found in the brain that force other proteins to fold or bend abnormally. When this happens, this equates to varying degrees of brain damage, since the brain can no longer function as it once did. The higher the number of prions in the brain, the worse the damage to the brain is.

To measure the presence of prions in the brain, one of two kinds of tests can be conducted. The first is the B-Panel test. This is for patients who don’t show any signs of developing Alzheimer’s but are at risk of developing it. Those at risk include people with a family history of Alzheimer’s and those who have had multiple head injuries, among other risk factors.

C-Panel tests are for those individuals who already exhibit the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This is the test that provides the most accurate readings of the levels of prions present in the brain, and it’s the most trusted diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s.

 

Educate Yourself About Alzheimer’s Symptoms

One of the best things you can do for your loved one is to learn about the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s that are not so commonly known. For instance, hiding other’s things or being suspicious of others hiding their things is a symptom most people are not aware of until it happens and causes a great deal of strain to the relationship. They may also imagine things that are not there and insist they are, no matter how much you might try to convince them otherwise.

They may become violent when frustrated as well. This frustration is caused by their realisation that they are not in control of their minds and bodies the way they once were. They need your support and companionship now more than ever.

 

Avoiding Upsetting and Unsettling Situations

People with Alzheimer’s tend to be upset very easily, and this can range from mild to extreme depending on the individual and situation. For example, loud noises from the television or radio might upset them. You want to create an atmosphere of support and comfort around them to keep them from experiencing sadness, depression, and anxiety that overwhelms them. Having a daily routine can be crucial for those with Alzheimer’s. If you live with them, you should encourage this and support it. When there is a set routine, they are less likely to feel confused and helpless.

Do and say things to let them know that you are close by and are there to support them during this time. Never argue with them or try to convince them of anything they don’t want to believe. Remember that you are no longer dealing with a rational person at all times.

Remember this in your daily interactions with them. Only ask them one question at a time, and wait until they answer successfully before saying anything else. Don’t be afraid to use humor if you think they will respond positively. You can also use music, singing and dancing to improve their mood or distract them from themselves.

Above all, try not to let your anger or frustration show. The closer you were to them before the onset of Alzheimer’s, the more upsetting this will be to them. Instead of getting frustrated, walk away from them for a while and take some deep breaths before engaging again. Never forget that you might need this kind of help and companionship yourself one day.

 

This post is by freelance writer Hannah Boothe.

 

We will beat this, It will get better: Guest blog by Jenny Nguyen

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(image: Mercury News, Daphne Sashin -USA)

We are currently living in strange times, where the majority of people are practicing “Social Distancing”. This has become the norm for most people for a couple of weeks or months. Its only a few months of the first year of the new decade, and no one expected coronavirus to have such an impact of everyday life.

Many people out there are worried and anxious about what is happening, you are not alone. We are all in this together and we can beat this virus. My blog is all about me and my anxiety and how I been coping during these difficult times.

Let me start by saying that even before coronavirus, I have suffered from anxiety for most of my life. I am always constantly worried and stressed about what the future holds. It is the uncertainty that makes me so nervous. Sometimes I just want to stay in bed and not talk to anyone. 

It was when something in my life happened, I decided to take matters into my own hands in order to help deal with my anxiety. I decide to self-refer myself and attend CBT classes provided by the NHS. My counsellor has been so helpful in helping me to put things in perspective.  I learnt different ways to help me deal with the anxiety. During the week, I still continue with my CBT lessons, but it is done by telephone.

I really appreciate the work the NHS does. They work so hard to try and help people struggling through hard times and saves people’s lives. 

When I first heard about the coronavirus, it was okay but then when we started to get cases in UK, my anxiety levels started to kick in. I realised that I suffer from health anxiety too, where I would often check online the symptoms and some days, I convince myself that I have coronavirus.

Social media and the news are reporting about coronavirus and this made me more anxious about what the future holds and if I will be able to survive through this time. It started to get really bad after a few days, as cases in the UK kept increasing and we had deaths in the UK. 

Things started to get bad with my mental health as I started to develop symptoms of the virus. One Saturday evening, I started to develop a high fever and started panicking. I had so many thoughts running through my head and ended up calling NHS 111. All they said was ‘it’s a cold’. During that time, I was so scared and my anxiety levels was so high. That evening I found it hard to sleep but I drank a lot of water. The next day I was okay, but decided not to go in to work. It was the right decision to make. 

At work, the decision was made that everyone would work from home until further notice. During the first few days of working at home, it was good because it was great to have freedom of what I wanted to do at home, as we won’t have this much free time again. As time went on, I could feel my anxiety levels increasing and my mind kept wandering to the worst things that could happen to me and my family.

We are in tough times and it is affecting everyone mental health, even if you don’t admit it but this is the time we can work on ourselves and pick up a hobby we enjoy. I suffer from loneliness and I often need others to support me. This is the time you can reconnect with past friends. I recommend reaching out to an old friend and talking to them.

We all go through the same things and know that this bad situation will end very soon. We don’t know when, but we will beat it together.

In order to help with my anxiety levels in this situation, I focus on myself and try to find ways I can help others in this situation. I want to help others who are suffering and find ways to inspire them, that everything will be okay. Having fresh air when you are on lockdown is very important. I have a garden and once in a while I go out for a walk.

We need to protect our mental health. It is okay to be struggling. It’s okay to lose your footing and scramble to stay upright. It’s okay to be screaming on the inside or outside. It’s okay to be scared or anxious or depressed. You are not alone and people are here to support you.

We will get through this together and use this time to do something you always wanted to do. We will beat this! It will get better!

 

This blog was written by freelance writer Jenny Nguyen, in the UK.

The best employee benefits supporting Mental health: by Daniel Tannenbaum

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(image: Policy Bee)

 

In 2020, many startups and companies are implementing strategies or creating employee benefits that put mental health first. This is a welcome change that shows just how far attitudes towards mental health have changed in the past decade, becoming no longer a taboo.

Here are the firms that are supporting mental health amongst staff members best:

Equipsme

The London-based startup Equipsme has created an inexpensive employee benefit that means employees can benefit from comprehensive yet affordable health insurance policies. Whatever the size of the business, companies can insure staff with plans from as little as £7 per month per person.

Customers get 24//7 GP access, online health checks, nurse support and 3 physio sessions as standard with the option to upgrade to stress support for as little as £1.50 per person per month, optical and dental cover for £7.50 per person per month too.

Sweaty Betty

The hugely popular activewear brand strongly promotes to staff a healthy mind and body and keeping stress in the workplace to a minimum. How does the firm do this? Each week, it gives its employees the chance to join lunchtime yoga classes to help them relax. There is also the chance to join running clubs and start later in the day if they so wish, all with the aim of helping with stress management.

Ernst & Young (EY)

Ernst & Young makes mental health a big focus in its organisation, providing not only private healthcare, but also free online health assessments in a counselling service that can be used by not only staff members but also their families. It is completely confidential and available for 24-hours.

yulife

yulife is another exciting London startup that incentivises employees to look after their mental health by promoting healthier lifestyles. The company has radically shaken up the life insurance industry for the better with their insurance package.

For example, businesses who take up yulife insurance policies can reward their employees through earning yucoin. Yucoin is earned by engaging in a healthy lifestyle, tracked by staff in a daily app. This includes doing exercise and meditation.

By accumulating yucoin online, staff can then redeem these for real life rewards at shops, restaurants, and much more.

Innocent smoothies

The company is known for providing a range of employee benefits that puts the needs of its staff first. This is particularly the case when it comes to mental health. For example, the smoothie firm is dedicated to reducing work stresses through the inclusion of a free gym and breakfast to all staff. It also provides a yoga club to its employees and a 100% confidential 24 hour employee assistance programme that means they can talk to someone privately if they need to.

 

This blog was written by writer Daniel Tannenbaum.

Life under Lockdown: Keeping yourself busy at home: Guest blog by Chloe Walker

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(image: https://www.cottagesforcouples.com/)

As Covid-19 continues to spread and the world scrambles to stay a step ahead, many of us are finding ourselves isolating at home in unprecedented circumstances. All around the world governments are increasingly ramping up safety measures to protect both their medical staff and their most vulnerable citizens.

As we all adapt to a new and still rapidly changing world, there are challenges to our wellbeing, financial security and even mental health.

On the other hand, many people are now realising that life in lockdown offers many unique advantages. Just because you’re self-isolating or social distancing, it doesn’t mean that life has to be put on hold completely. In fact, now could well be the time to capitalise on the extra time spent at home to do things that otherwise would have taken the back seat.

Here are a few ideas for ways to make sure your time under quarantine is spent wisely.
Get your garden ready for spring

In the UK, the first glorious days of spring have appeared, reminding us all that there’s plenty to be grateful for. Warmer and brighter days lure us outside again after a long winter. If your garden needs some love, put on your wellies and know that a little outdoor work could do wonders for stress levels.

Gardeners know that work in the yard is never really finished. Still, avoid mowing your lawn too short for now. According to mowing specialists Mowers Online, “As the growing season starts selecting the blade height to 50mm will give optimum grass blade thickness which is crucial for growth. This height may seem rugged at first but remembering that grass blades are solar panels for the lawn and the more energy created, the more luscious the lawn.”

Finding time to garden during the Spring will keep you occupied, physically active and out there getting essential vitamin D.

Try some spring cleaning

In the same spirit, why not use the longer, brighter days to inspire you to clean up a little? If you’re now working from home, you may find yourself with extra time on your hands – and the opportunity to get around to all those deep cleaning jobs that have accumulated over the year.

Lift your spirits by clearing away clutter, reorganising drawers and cupboards, shampooing the carpets or cleaning the windows. The lockdown will end eventually, and you’ll really appreciate a bright and shiny home to see you through the challenges that will come with getting back to work again.
Bring a little of the outdoors indoors

It’s now well understood that nature has an incredible ability to relax us and boost mental wellbeing. As most of us try to manage the inevitable stresses the coronavirus has brought with it, we can turn to nature to recalibrate, de-stress and remind ourselves of what’s important.

Even if it’s gloomy outside, bring a little nature indoors to get the benefits. Stonehouse Furniture suggest ‘‘A window box on the outside is a great way to add a splash of colour to your day as you do mundane kitchen chores. Spring bulbs, miniature daffodils, polyanthus and summer bedding plants are a very cheap way to add nature and colour to your kitchen outlook.’’
Enjoy cooking
Now’s the time to get in touch with your domesticity! There’s more time now than ever to really relish the joys of preparing fresh, healthy, home-cooked meals for your family. With grocery shop orders being a little unpredictable, you likely have a stock of ingredients on hand anyway. Why not get creative and try some new recipes you were always too busy to attempt before, or concoct your own meals? Rope in the family for some quality time cooking together, and experiment with different daily routines.

Can’t find your usual ingredients in the store anymore? Accept the challenge and eat something a little more exciting and out of your culinary comfort zone. Have too much fresh food on your hands? Try batch cooking and then freeze the extra food for emergencies.

It may at first seem limiting to have to stay at home, but use your imagination and reframe staying at home as a great opportunity instead. Get stuck into that hobby you’ve always put off, or flex your creativity with painting, poetry, crafts or knitting. Stay fit indoors by doing yoga or YouTube workouts, enjoy your pets, or have your own mini party in the living room with your favourite music. Films, books and musical instruments are your friends right now.  Keep in touch with your literal friends online, or get out some board games to play with the family.

The coronavirus has challenged us all to prioritize what’s truly essential: our mental and physical wellbeing. Take this opportunity to reconnect with yourself, with nature, and with those you love, and you’ll soon wonder why you don’t spend more time at home!

This blog was written by freelance writer Chloe Walker, who is based in the UK.  

Coronavirus Anxiety: Self Isolation by Eleanor

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(image by Eleanor using Canva.com)

 

Hi friends,

Those of you who follow me on social media will be aware that due to fatigue, a non persistent dry cough and feeling warm/sweaty (but no full blown fever thank God), I am self isolating at home for 2 weeks as a precaution.

I am doing alright today, slept a lot as had little energy and had chicken soup and Paracetemol. It is very unlikely I have Covid 19, probably just another virus but due to the current climate, I am taking precautions. I also have a surgical face mask which I am wearing to protect my husband, mum and step dad, in case it is anything more sinister. I have friends who are also self isolating and who are NHS front life staff that I am worried about.

In truth, this kind of isolation is something I am used to as with my anxiety I work from home. However, this is an unprecedented situation and one that we have never seen before in our life time. It is scary and the news feeds can cause anxiety.

I have decided that :

1)I will limit how often I check the news about coronavirus and will try not to listen to LBC overnight- I love LBC but I think this is best as there is rolling news coverage.

2) I will increase self care, rest and relaxation time- in order to stay sane, this may mean getting fresh air in our garden.

3) I will take each day as it comes and do as much as I can while in isolation.

4) Get enough sleep and eat healthily

5) Stay in touch with friends

 

What are you doing to manage your anxiety around coronavirus?    

Love,

Eleanor x

Taking a Weekend Break, Finding your Perfect Wellbeing Holiday : by Wellbeing Escapes

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(image: Wellbeing Escapes, Euphoria Retreat)

It’s cold and wintery here in England and you will be dreaming of relaxation and calm, a retreat away from the stresses of daily life. Thinking about a health and wellness escape in the UK or abroad? Go no further than Wellbeing Escapes who are experts at bringing you the finest wellness holidays.

From yoga and meditation and digital detox retreats to luxury spa holidays in the Maldives, Greece and Morocco, there is something for everyone! Wellbeing Escapes say they offer an award winning service with flexible pricing and discounts to make sure you get the most out of your booking.

Wellbeing Escapes gifted me a wonderful pack of spa products which gave me a flavour of their unique wellbeing holidays, as these are used by their partners. This included various oils and room sprays (with calming scents like lavender) designed to help you relax and recharge.In looking at their holidays, I would like to focus on the weekend spa retreats, as often we just want to take time out at the weekend to revitalise.

Wellbeing Holidays say,
’If you are in need of some rest and relaxation, a weekend spa break is the perfect solution. Hop in the car and be at an idyllic countryside retreat in a few hours or take a short flight over to Europe for some added vitamin D. Spend time with a partner, a best friend or simply take some time for some well earned me-time. We’ve designed our exclusive spa programmes which make weekends that extra bit special. Relax with a selection of massages, facials, body scrubs and get your heart beating fast with the daily group fitness classes and then simply relax by the swimming pool.’

 

Spa weekend break in Europe:

Euphoria Retreat- Mystras, Greece

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(image: Wellbeing Holidays, Euphoria Retreat, Greece)
Euphoria Retreat is in a beautiful destination in Mystras, Greece. Euphoria means a state of wellbeing for body and mind, helping you to heal and transform your health. Relax in the beautiful turquoise pools and spa, in idyllic surroundings. This retreat serves to help physical, mental and spiritual balance, with a complete digital detox too (so no phones in the spa). There are personalised treatments , consultations, dietary guidance, exercise and mental coaching to help you achieve the concept of a blissful life (Euphoria).

Facilities include treatment rooms, outdoor pool, sphere pool, relaxation areas, tepidarium, Finnish sauna, infrared sauna, ice fountain, steam room, experiential showers, speleotherapy-salt room, watsu pool, sanctuary deprivation pool, Californian hot tub, gym, Pilates studio and yoga!.

You are also near a UNESCO world heritage site at Mystras, so there is a lot to explore.

For more about this beautiful, calming retreat see:

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(image: Wellbeing Escapes, Euphoria Retreat)

Other weekend breaks abroad include Portgual, Venice, Merano (Italy), Cyprus, Morocco and Spain (Marbella and Alicante). See here: https://www.wellbeingescapes.com/all-hotels/weekend-spa-breaks-t119

 

UK Weekend Spa Break
Grayshott Health Spa, Surrey, UK

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(image: Wellbeing Escapes, Grayshott Spa)

Want to get away but don’t want to go abroad? Wellbeing Escapes have your perfect weekend spa break. They say, ‘Idyllically set in the 47-acre estate of gardens and grounds which used to be home to Alfred Lord Tennyson, Grayshott Spa is brimming with old world charm and elegance. The spa is located close to Guildford in the village on Grayshott which approximately one hour by train from London. Inside the historic country house, Grayshott has been refurbished to combine the best of old and new, creating a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere.’

The house and spa have beautiful grounds and woods to walk peacefully in nature. Just one hour from London, you can escape quickly and easily to this wonderful retreat. Grayshott is renowned for its holistic approach to wellbeing through therapies to alleviate emotional and physical stress. Example treatments include Reiki, Aroma face massage, detox salt baths and more. You can relax in the spa steam rooms and sauna or play golf, tennis and swim in the indoor and outdoor pools.

There are 59 rooms and suites and a delicious balanced menu. Group classes include yoga, aqua fitness, power walks and tai chi, to help restore balance.

What are you waiting for? To get some wellness and calm back into your life, visit this health spa today.

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(image: Wellbeing Escapes, Grayshott Spa)

 

You can contact the award winning Wellbeing Escapes to book your break in the UK or globally now at https://www.wellbeingescapes.com/ . ‘Pioneers in wellness travel since 2005’

Eleanor received a gifted pack of spa products,  in exchange for a blog on wellbeing escapes. 

Looking to the Future and Life Dreams: by Eleanor

 

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(image: 123RF.com)

Hi friends,

It has been a while since I have written a personal blog as there has been so much going on here that I was just focusing on getting through it all. Robs dad had surgery to remove a second brain tumour and is thankfully recovering well, the surgeon amazingly got all the cancer. Success.

Alongside this, I have been in therapy since November with a wonderful therapist and we are doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy). This therapy helps to process trauma that can get ‘stuck’ in the brain if not processed. That trauma can stem from childhood upwards- I was an anxious child from an early age even though I had a good childhood! I have also been through a lot due to my bipolar episodes and hospitalisations. So, I am working with my therapist to process memories and we are doing it slowly.

My therapist will either ‘tap’ on the side of my legs while I recall the memory to help process it or my eyes will follow a light or her finger as we process. Understandably, there has to be a lot of trust in this type of relationship as well as me being protected and not triggered by the therapy. For this, we have developed a ‘safe place’ memory that I go to when we bring up anything too distressing. We have just started to go deeper with this and I will update you with our progress. I am far less anxious than I was and it has been really helpful to build a positive, working relationship with my therapist.

The reason I started therapy was because I was having intense panic attacks and finding it difficult to manage my life due to it. I hope that by working on these triggers that I can react differently and live a healthier and better life. Stay tuned!

A month or so ago, I also went to see my psychiatrist for the first time in 2 years, mainly as I had worries about my weight and physical health. My medications means I have put on a substantial amount of weight and this is worrying me health wise more than anything. I have been advised to diet and exercise and maybe work with a nutritionist. So, this will also be a new journey and I will try my best with this, not easy as the meds may stop me losing weight due to slowing metabolism or encouraging cravings. We considered reducing my Quetaipine, a mood stabiliser and anti psychotic to help but because I have been more mentally stable, I have decided to keep it at the same dose for now.

Rob and I have also started to look at new homes, which has been good. There is a lot happening right now and important that I rest, look after myself and keep calm.

Life with bipolar disorder can be uncertain. I have some fears about the future, which I will talk about in another more detailed post. My medicines thankfully keep me mentally well, but coming off them for future life changes eg pregnancy could be a big risk for me and one I am not sure I should take due to being bipolar 1 (risk of mania and psychosis). This is not currently imminent, but is still a future fear, especially as I love children. A decision for a later date.

Overall though I am hopeful and excited about life and will keep you all updated with my therapy and health journey and news.

Thanks for reading and following Be Ur Own Light as we come up to our 4th anniversary,

With love,

Eleanor x

 

 

Living with an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Sofie

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(image: Pinterest)

This is a first person, brave and honest account by Sofie of her feelings about her eating disorder, which are her personal views. Trigger warning: please be careful as this discusses eating disorders and real emotions around them. We promote healing and recovery, where possible. So here’s Sofie….

    

I miss it every day! My first thought as I wake up in the morning and my last before I drift off for the night. It is a visceral longing. That’s the burden of an eating disorder. It’s an imposter that invites itself into your life and fulfills a need. It seemingly bestows upon you new abilities and strips you of weaknesses. However, with every freedom that it grants, there is a toll to pay.

My story doesn’t begin with a girl unhappy with her body, not many eating disorder stories do. My story starts with a girl lost within her own life. A girl who longed to feel she had a purpose and a direction — a child who yearned to feel an ounce of control. Anorexia gave me that control.

It gave me the power to defy human nature. It gave me a harsh look that proved I was oozing with discipline. Each bone like a spear warding off feelings and disappointments. I was never clueless as to why I starved myself. I never thought I was on a diet gone wrong. I wept many tears over the fact that my death-defying mission for control had made me so susceptible to vanity and left me a slave to the numbers on a scale, but how else was I to measure my discipline?

I miss it every day! I forget the aches, the pains, the fights, the hopelessness. I long for the feeling of achievement and forget the complete and utter sense of THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. STILL, I AM NOT ENOUGH. I long to go back almost every moment. To flee the life I have, to rewind and go back. For me, disappointment is much harder to face without the false comfort of the hunger, without the excuse of the failing body and protective blanket of a hazy mind.

So am I in recovery? I don’t know. I feel a sense of helplessness in my recovery like I have been dragged here by circumstance, and for now, my situation doesn’t sit comfortably with me. However, I know what I have to tell myself when it stings that my body no longer hurts: I can’t be a nice person while starving. I replay in my mind countless occasions where I behaved more like an animal than a human. I so desired to be successful, but I never wished to be a monster.

So, for now, this realisation is the guard I wear against the intrusive longing. It isn’t a bulletproof armour. The thoughts still wound, but for now, I am still standing, and I don’t need to judge the situation further than that.

And so, the greatest gift any therapy has given me is the clarity to place my love of others above my hatred of myself.

I can live a healthier life as a gift to those I love, who don’t deserve to be tortured by my demons. I must try and look after myself for my family and friends.

 

This blog was written by guest blogger Sofie, to discuss the truth around living with an eating disorder. If you are worried someone you love has an eating disorder, you can contact charities including Beat and speak to a GP or psychiatrist.

When Therapy Isn’t Enough–How to Handle Physical and Mental Health Issues: Guest post by Brooke Chaplan

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(Image: Pinterest)

Therapy is the first line option that most people choose when they are dealing with a mental health issue. While therapy is undeniably important, many people struggle with it, even giving up if they feel it isn’t meeting their needs. This isn’t because therapy isn’t important, but because therapy can only do so much when you are physically and financially in situations where you have no power to make lasting change in your life. Dealing with chronic pain and other physical issues can leave you worn out mentally as well, and learning how to deal with both physical and mental issues at the same time is the best way to find relief. True wellness must come from understanding and addressing physical and mental concerns together.

Understand the Connection Between Physical and Mental Health Issues

Chronic pain is exhausting to deal with on a daily basis. Over time, dealing with your pain and the loss of your normal activities can cause you to feel depressed and even anxious about your future. People often develop anxiety about their pain, especially when it seems to worsen without warning and at the worst possible times. Your mental health can also make pain worse. For instance, dealing with PTSD or anxiety causes tension within your body that affects the muscles. It is the same reason why people find that their shoulders ache after a long and stressful day. Understanding this connection will help you to articulate just why you are feeling the way you are, and allow you to talk to both mental health and physical therapists about your unique situation in ways that will let them best help you.

Choose a Program That Focuses on Your Mind and Body

Injuries that leave you unable to do many physical activities, such as spinal or leg injuries, have an impact both on your body and your mind. The best type of back pain treatment involves helping both your mind and body to heal. While you may participate in special exercises and other forms of therapy for your back, you’ll also receive counseling and support that helps you to feel better mentally. For instance, identifying mental health issues that require treatment can help you to learn techniques that help you to avoid focusing on the pain. Meditation and mindfulness are two solutions that often work well with traditional back pain strategies.

Commit to Following the Program

As with any type of therapy, your involvement makes a big difference in the outcome. Although you may feel depressed and in pain, you need to commit to working through it all. Choosing to show up for your treatment even on a bad day helps you to make continuous progress. It might not happen all at once, but you’ll soon begin to see how your treatment plan is working. Committing to physical (physio) therapy programs has also been shown to have positive impact on your ability to handle mental challenges. Remember, you may see your body and mind as two separate things, but your body interprets them both together.

Take Steps to Reduce Stress in Your Life

This is the time to take care of yourself. Take a time out from stressful activities so that you can focus on the treatment. You can also use relaxation strategies to help stop stress from affecting your physical health such as using deep breathing to work through an anxiety attack.

Your mind and body are connected, and you’ll find that each one influences the other. When one type of therapy isn’t enough, it is time to explore new options. Continuing to work on improving both your physical and mental health helps you manage pain and regain control over your life.

 

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan

‘The Meaning of Normal’: Living with a sibling with mental illness : Guest post by Shira

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(image: Thought Clothing)

It hasn’t been normal for so long that sometimes I forget what normal should feel like. When I try to think about it, it feels like a glimpse into someone else’s life, and I am an invasive stranger, trying to reach something that doesn’t belong to me.

What is normal?

Sometimes I think I remember it.

Sometimes I think that normal is that time when I was six and you were three and we didn’t fight. When we played hand in hand like every other child, and our entire world was pink and purple, and the most important thing to us was that our dolls had shiny blonde hair.

And we would play every game under the sun, from barbies to dollhouse to the convoluted imaginary ones that only we knew the rules to, and even then did we ever really know the rules?

I was a witch and you were the princess. We were both witches. We were both princesses. I stole your magic time machine but you found another one, and our living room became the entire universe as we ran through it, believing wholly in the pictures we created, the way that only children can.

But did we ever really exist like that? Were we ever those idyllic children, the children that every parent wishes to have?

Maybe our normal is all the times when I was ten and you were seven and we would push and shove and slap. You were my younger sister who could do no wrong and I was the older one, always blamed for both our shares of misdemeanours.

“You should know better!” They would shout

“But she started it!” I would pout.

“It’s not true!” your bottom lip would stick out.

I think we all know that I probably did start it.

We would fight and yell and cry and shout, never giving in, never admitting that we were wrong. Because we weren’t wrong. We were both right, all the time, every time, and the other was always painfully mistaken. And we roared and yelled and scratched each other, but knew only to cry when a parent was looking. And if nobody was looking, well then nobody would see if we punched back just one more time.

But were we ever really like this? Two demonic screaming children who were never silent and never content with just each other? Were we really the children that every parent dreads to have?

Maybe our normal is the way we grew apart as we grew older. When I was 15 and you were 12 and I would pretend not to know you as I walked past you in school. And maybe our normal is the way we would come home from the same school at the same time separately, both of us walking different routes from the bus because being seen with one another would be unacceptable. Maybe that’s what all teenagers do. Maybe that really was our normal.

Maybe our normal was what came next.

Maybe the years we didn’t talk to each other was what we were always heading towards. Because one day we would put down the dolls, and one day we would run out of things to fight about and we would just…exist.

One next to the other.

Sitting in silence.

Neither speaking.

Neither bothering to reach out first.

Because now I’m 18 and you’re 15 and I don’t remember the last time I spoke to you. The house is thick with anger, so thick that it poisons every interaction, and I couldn’t even tell you what I’m angry about. Because the sister I played with, the sister I happily fought with but would jump on anyone else who dared fight with her is in pain. So much palpable pain, and for the first time I couldn’t just make it go away.

Was I angry with you?

Yes.

Was I angry with myself?

Yes.

And so I let this become our normal. A normal where two siblings exist side by side, but don’t even know how to speak without offending. Where everything I say hurts you and everything you say angers me.

So we made this our new normal.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care.

I don’t.

I care.

And now I’m 20 and you’re 17 and I’m 3000 miles away. But this is our normal now. We don’t speak. We can’t speak. But it doesn’t even matter because there’s nothing to speak about anymore. How can I ask how you are when I already know the answer, and I know it’s not an answer I want to hear. How can you ask how I am when you’re too focused on making it through your own day without worrying about mine?

And anyway, it’s been a long time since we told each other how our day was. Not since I was 14 and you were 11 and we would awkwardly walk home from the bus stop together, backpacks moving up and down and up and down as we compared notes about school, neither of us loving it, neither of us willing to admit that out loud.

But we are not those children anymore, and we don’t have any shared experiences to talk about anymore.

I wonder if you miss me like I miss you. I wonder if you count down the days to my birthday too, hoping that we will both make it past 17 and 20, willing time to hurry up even though maybe all I really want to do is turn back the clock.

And then you are 18, and it’s been 18 years since I sat by your tiny cradle in the hospital and cried when we left, maybe because I wanted another chocolate bar from the hospital vending machine, or maybe because secretly I don’t want to leave my baby sister in a cold hospital far far away.

But now you are 18 and I’ve still left you in a hospital far away and it’s still just as hard to leave you there as it was all those years ago. But a 21 year old can’t lie down on the floor and have a tantrum so I keep going and keep going and this is our normal now.

A normal where you’re there and I’m here. A normal where we won’t speak for months on end but then I text you and tell you I miss you and now you answer me too, and I think you miss me too. A normal where we joke and laugh at stupid posts we see on Instagram,  tentatively, both of us till remembering when you were 14 and I was 17 and we ripped each other apart with words until neither of us said anything at all. Is this our normal now?

What is normal?

I looked it up for you.

 

NORMAL:

  • Conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected

 

But who gets to decide what that standard is? How do we know when something that once wasn’t normal now is, and if what was once normal is now anything but? Do we decide that? Or do others who stand by and watch get to decide that for us?

I’m sure someone could tell you the scientific answer. I’m sure there is a video out there with a detailed and meticulous answer laid out for us to study.

I’m sure somebody could tell us the answer. Maybe we haven’t even been normal, maybe we always were.

Maybe the imaginary games of our childhood were always meant to turn into imagined grievances causing real rifts. Maybe we were meant to grow apart and then come back together again, a little rougher but a little kinder. Maybe none of it was normal, or maybe all of it was.

Sometimes I wish I could change all of it. If I hadn’t said what I said that one day, or if I hadn’t slammed my door that one time, or if you hadn’t called me that name under your breath, things would all be different now.

But sometimes I know I can change none of it. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe if we hadn’t played all those games as children, if we had never walked down the road together from school, if I had never sent the texts you eventually answered, things would all be different now.

Normal isn’t for us to decide, it isn’t for me to determine. All I know is our normal is all we have, and I wouldn’t change us for the world.

About:

Shira is a writer living in Israel, drawing on every day life experiences. Her sibling lives with a diagnosed mental illness and she has bravely shared their story here.