#MyDepressionMeans: How my hashtag inspired others fighting depression : Jewish News Article extract by our founder Eleanor Segall

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On 17 December, I was sitting at home thinking about my depression. I have bipolar disorder, which is well controlled on medication; however, often in the winter I am prone to depression, partly owing to the lack of light. This means things start to feel hopeless and I have less energy. Symptoms of depression affect everyone differently. I had started feeling low and my job is not the most social, so I felt a little isolated.

I’ve been active on Twitter for a while, posting about mental health, bipolar, anxiety and sharing my story with the world via Metro and other newspapers, to battle the stigma. I had a brainwave – why not start a hashtag that can help others share their own experiences of depression? There had to be lots of us out there, feeling the same way and feeling like they needed to talk.

Seeing as waiting list times for therapy are growing longer and longer, I decided to see if others wanted to share what their depression means to them. So, the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans was born.

I shared this message:

‘I’ve been struggling with depression lately but I know how supportive the twitter community is. Thought we could use the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans and share experiences to help everyone feel less alone. #MyDepressionMeans I get up later than normal and feel hopeless. Please Retweet’

To drum up support for the hashtag, I messaged my fellow mental health campaigners and charities to see if they would get behind it.

Amazingly, charities Rethink Mental Illness, the Mental Health Foundation, the Shaw Mind Foundation and mental health publisher Trigger Publishing all got behind it and retweeted to their thousands of followers asking people to share their own experiences.

People from all over the world began sharing their symptoms of depression and what it meant for them. I am amazed that my tweet has been liked nearly 400 times and retweeted over 150 times, with around 450 responses of people sharing about their mental health.

It was important to me that when sharing this, it was done in a safe space. You can never predict if Twitter trolls will hijack the thread, but amazingly there was so much love, support and understanding.

There was an outpouring of hundreds of people, most whom I had never met, sharing about their illness, some of whom had never done so before.

What touched me the most was a video recorded by a woman who was sharing about her depression for the first time – and who was empowered to keep on sharing, owing to the phenomenal response.

By creating the hashtag, I had something people could share. This is down to the incredible mental health community and unique online support network.

 

Read the rest at: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/mydepressionmeans-how-my-hashtag-inspired-others-fighting-depression/

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Life Whirlwind: Mental Health Writing, Blogging and Speaking, Bipolar Disorder and a trip to Romania.

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(image: Pinterest)

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy- but exciting. This month has been a bit of a rebirth in many ways. My writing and blogging have truly taken off and been published in various different places- this month my story is in Happiful Magazine, two articles for Metro on mental health (www.metro.co.uk), I shared my story in the Jewish News here in the UK and online at STOP Suicide. It has been Time to Talk Day (about mental health), Childrens Mental Health Awareness Week and I have also volunteered this month with Jami (Jewish Association of Mental Illness) Mental Health Awareness Shabbat, which this year came to around 97 Jewish communities in the UK. I attended the panel event at a local community centre and discussion was had on mental health here in the UK, by experts including my friend Jonny Benjamin.

This month, I have also been asked by a friend to come in and talk to his work place about living with anxiety and what it means. So that is hugely exciting for me! I am also writing a mental health article for a top womens magazine- which is a dream of mine. I hope to share that with you when its published.  I have been writing sample chapters for a book too and am in the limbo phase of waiting to hear what editors think.

So, its been a total whirlwind really as I have also been running my blog here and sharing peoples stories (and last month this blog was nominated as a finalist for a UK Blog Award). I was also asked last week if a social media editor could turn my story into a video for her 200 thousand followers so that is in process too. I had not ascertained how much interest there would be in my story.

Professionally, a lot is changing and I have to be very much aware to look after my mental health, to get enough sleep and rest, to make sure I take my tablets on time, to eat well and do some gentle exercise and to see and speak to my friends (and boyfriend of course). I have to keep grounded and rested in order to function effectively. Last week, the Jewish News article came out and I know it has had a positive ripple effect in my community- as my Mum was stopped in the pharmacy for people to talk to her about it. So thats exciting.

I am a shy person at heart and I have written extensively on having social anxiety. When my JN article came out, i actually felt very anxious at first and wanted to hide away. Mental health stigma is still present in my community and I felt scared. But I needn’t have worried as the reaction has been very positive!

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I am still processing all thats going on and I am lucky to have a really good therapist and family/ boyfriend support network to help me deal with the changes going on. I am still adjusting to the financial side of being a freelance writer and pitching to editors at different places. My latest Metro article on child grief came out on Friday and you can read it here: http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/02/children-often-get-sidelined-when-a-family-experiences-loss-why-its-important-we-talk-to-pupils-in-schools-about-grief-7270002/

Over the weekend, I went with my Dad to Iasi, Romania (on the border with Moldova) which is where my great Grandpa and his family were from. It was an eye opening trip- the city is grand and full of culture. However, as Jews we had relatives who died in the Holocaust and found this out using the Yad Vashem Holocaust database when we came back. It was great seeing Iasi but also sad as some of our relatives were taken from there to be killed – but an eye opening trip.

Today, I am feeling thankful and grateful for all thats going on and thankful for you who are reading and following and commenting- and enjoying my work.

With love, Eleanor x

‘Time To Talk: I hope my story can help others feel less alone’: for the Jewish News UK on Time to Talk Day

Today is Time to Talk Day, Time to Change charity’s annual day to talk about our mental health. This year, I decided I wanted to share my story with a local newspaper to my community, the Jewish community in the UK and beyond online. This is also for people who aren’t Jewish and so I am sharing it here. I havnt shared the full article due to SEO reasons but there is a link at the end to the full article!

Remember- its ok to talk about mental health… to loved ones and beyond. It took me a long time to share my story and sharing publicly is not for everyone. I hope the article helps you feel less alone:

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(image: Eleanor Segall)
Time To Talk Day, marked on 1 February, gives everyone the opportunity to open up about mental health. It’s a subject close to my heart, because it took me 11 years to talk openly about the fact I have bipolar disorder and anxiety.

My story begins in 2003, when, aged 15, I experienced an episode of depression, anxiety and psychosis, where your mind loses touch with reality.

I wasn’t sleeping, my heart would suddenly race, I would cry and have regular panic attacks and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was incredibly frightened and exhausted.

My parents, as well as teachers at Immanuel College, were hugely supportive and understanding and I sought help from a psychiatrist for the first time.

But that year, while on Israel Tour with my youth group, I also experienced a manic episode and had to come home early. I felt so ashamed, even though it was not my fault that my mind wasn’t well.

My madricha (youth leader) was an incredible support to me and I thank her to this day for all she did to make sure I was safe and well.

Months later, when I started studying for my A-levels, I had a further severe depressive episode.

For the next four months, I was kept in hospital and, aged just 16, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar affective 1 disorder (formerly known as manic depression), which causes both depressive and ‘high’ manic episodes.

The disorder can be medicated and therapy helps, but it’s about finding the right medication and support, which can take a while for each person.

For the next 10 years, I managed my condition and in that time achieved A-levels, went to university and travelled.

But when I turned 25, I again found myself spiralling into illness with a bipolar manic episode.

People suffering with this can have racing thoughts, reckless behaviour, increased activity and movement and delusions, which can, in the worst cases, turn into psychosis. This is what happened to me.

Through no fault of my own, I was back in hospital again. It was extremely frightening. Owing to the severity of the mania, I couldn’t see how ill I was and felt incredibly vulnerable.

At that time, I had no idea if I could recover and get back to some kind of normal life again. It affected everything and even when I began dating, I felt I had to hide my condition.

READ FULL ARTICLE: http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/time-to-talk-i-hope-my-story-can-help-others-feel-less-alone/