Fashion is a powerful force. It has the ability to make people feel confident, empowered, or at its worst horrible about themselves. It can have a positive impact on mental health and self-esteem if you find something pieces that make you feel good about yourselves. On the other hand, fashion can also have a negative impact on self-esteem and mental health if you’re constantly exposed to images and messages that make you feel inferior or unhappy with who you are. Especially with the inward turn of the pandemic, its hard for people to feel happy and confident about themselves.
The Psychology of Fashion
Fashion is a multi-billion-dollar industry and a big part of many people’s daily lives. It’s a subculture that’s easy to invest in. And, like any other trend, fashion comes and goes, so you’re always in control of how much you invest in it. The psychology of fashion reveals the different aspects of how fashion impacts people’s self-esteem. From the way people perceive others based on the way they’re dressed, to how people present themselves to the world by choosing outfits, fashion has a strong psychological effect on everyone.
Our bodies are such an important part of life, and it’s normal to have some insecurities about them. Still, as you grow older, many people struggle with body dysmorphia or an unhealthy obsession with one’s appearance. Constant exposure to images of other people’s bodies that are unrealistic and unattainable can be harmful to your self-esteem, especially in young people who are still forming their self-image. This can lead to eating disorders, body dysmorphia, low self esteem and depression and anxiety. Looking at images of gorgeous models wearing clothes you can’t afford or fit in can makes you feel left out or confused. It’s fun to keep up with trends, but try to avoid getting stuck in a rut of hype culture.
So what should I do?
You can’t ignore fashion and societal trends- but it’s important to not let fashion (or what is popular to wear) become something that defines who you are. It’s a fun accessory, something you should do for enjoyment, creativity, and confidence. For people who have found themselves struggling with their mental health due to the psychological effects on body image, it’s important to seek help. Talk to your friends and family members, or seek professional help if you need it. There are many ways to find happiness in style- whether you’re into vintage clothing, a specific designer, or a particular style like athleisure. You can read blogs with good recommendations, and wear things that you love, like that pair of perfect trainers or Men’s Off-White Hoodies. There’s something for everyone, and it’s important to have fun with it!
Fashion and societal expectations of how one should look can have a big impact on mental health, so it’s important to be mindful of it. It is also hard to be bombarded with negative messages on body image via social media. The body positive movement has sprung up because of this narrative- showing curvier models and embracing your flaws as beautiful.
There are also many ways to wear your favourite clothes in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, without negatively impacting your mental health. Focus on what makes you feel like the best version of yourself!
This article was written by a freelance writer and contains do follow links.
I am absolutely delighted to announce that we have been listed for the 4th year running (!) in the Vuelio Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog list! This means so much to me as Vuelio rank influential blogs by data and this year we are in 6th place amongst some truly amazing blogs, including my friend Cara Lisette’s!
Thank you so much to Vuelio for the support as always. I hope I can continue to blog and produce content that tackles the stigma around mental health and bipolar disorder in particular. My aim is to share others stories and to help others feel less alone.
The UK has an ageing population, with statistics indicating that there are 5.4 million people aged 75 years. A further breakdown also shows that persons aged 85 years and above make up 1.6 million of the population. Indeed, the ageing years are characterised by failing physical and mental health. However, science and society continue to devise ways to make the period less stressful.
Here are some guidelines on how:
The essence of mobility
As people age, one of the first things that deteriorate is mobility. The depletion of muscle tone, coupled with bone issues, may inhibit movement. Usually, it sets in gradually, and when nothing is done, mobility can decrease by as much as 70% to 80%. At that point, an ageing person may need walking aids to support their body weight. However, mobility issues can be thwarted if counter-measures are taken in time.
Geriatricians (primary care doctors for the aged) advise ageing persons to dedicate some minutes of their days to walk. According to these experts, 150 minutes in a week is adequate. When the elder individual has enough energy, an average of 20 minutes daily is perfect. However, another person with mobility issues can engage in a guided basic workout for at least 15 minutes a day. Among the elderly, the risk of falling is incredibly high. This may therefore require a specialised alarm for elderly persons. This is worn like a wristwatch and can be used to monitor the number of daily steps, call for help when needed, etc. So, as you encourage an older person to take mobility issues seriously, it helps to ensure that it’s done safely.
Reinforced social networks
It is essential to belong to a strong and supportive social network during the later years. Retiring from active duty and work can trigger depression. Although statistics indicate that depression in older adults is less prevalent than in the younger generation, it is still a cause for concern. Research in UK care homes revealed that 40% of the ageing generation endure chronic depression. This is likely due to the separation from their immediate family and friends.
Fortunately, this can be resolved when these seniors are encouraged to participate in social engagements. It can be in the form of a support group, a reading club, or other recreational groups purposely for older adults. As simple as these social networks may seem, they play a vital role in their life. It generates a sense of belonging, which subsequently promotes healthy mental well-being.
Attention to regular quality sleep
According to the British Geriatrics Society, insomnia is prevalent amongst elderly people. Whether housed in a care home or not, the difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep is a hurdle many older adults cannot cross without help. Insomnia is both a physical and mental well-being issue. This explains why experts say it should always be tackled from both angles.
In other words, as doctors prescribe pills to aid sleep, it is advisable to focus on the root cause of insomnia. It is possible to boost sleep quality by speaking to medical professionals and also assessing if there is a mental health cause to the insomnia too.
Elderly adults need both physical and mental health care as they transition into this new phase of life. These are just some ideas to help.
I do often wonder how long I had schizoaffective disorder before my diagnosis, but I guess I will never know. Back in 2016, I had my first experience of displaying symptoms of Schizophrenia (such as delusions), when I suffered from my first psychotic episode.
Before that, I had not really heard of any of these medical terms. I used to wrongly associate schizophrenic people with characters from the film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. I thought they were lost causes who needed constant care, I didn’t think they could be functioning members of society like everyone else, and I feel bad that I used to think that. But I had a lack of education and personal experience.
In late 2019, I suffered from a relapse and had another experience with psychosis (which can be defined as losing touch with reality with delusions and/or hallucinations).. In early 2020 I was finally diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. For those who are unsure, this condition is where symptoms of both psychotic and mood disorders are present together during one episode. ‘Schizo‘ refers to psychotic symptoms and ‘affective’ refers to mood symptoms. It is often described as a cross between Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia, as it includes symptoms from both of those conditions.
For me, it is currently something I am able to keep at bay, mainly thanks to my medication but also through being self-aware and looking after my mental wellbeing. I take Quetiapine (200mg slow release) every single day and I am more than happy with that. I have my tablet in the evening, which then helps me fall asleep without much struggle.
Without my meds, I can tell you now that I would be in all sorts of trouble. Every now and then I might forget to take it until just before bed, which means I need much longer to fall asleep because it takes a couple of hours to kick in.
That is ok though, as long as it’s not every night. But I know for a fact that without the medication, I am much more likely to start having delusions (irrational thoughts) and have an episode. Both my 2016 and 2019 episodes happened because my sleep was terrible and at times non-existent. I used to take sleep for granted, which is easy for anyone to do, but if you don’t let the brain repair itself it can lead to all sorts of problems. Just remember that psychosis can happen to absolutely anyone, I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
I am learning new things about my Schizoaffective Disorder all the time. I have joined a few Facebook groups which are supportive communities full of people with (or supporting those with) the same condition, such as this one which has nearly 18k members. For example I discovered through this group that some people who take meds before dinner (e.g. 4/5pm), find themselves waking up around 3am when they’ve worn off. They realised taking them an hour or so after dinner can give them a better sleep.
I have read books by authors with mental illness and they really help normalise it and give me peace of mind. I recently read ‘The Stranger on the Bridge’ by Jonny Benjamin (who is also Schizoaffective) and this gave me so much comfort. When you read a story that has parallels to yours, it gives you so much more hope and confidence that you can overcome your own adversities. Podcasts are a great source of help too and there are plenty out there that cover all kinds of mental illnesses.
I am also fortunate that my job gives me more opportunities to enhance my understanding of the disorder. I am proud to work for Hertfordshire Mind Network (my local mental health charity) as Fundraising & Marketing Officer, who are really supportive and always ask if there is anything they can do to help with my condition. I would advise anyone with mental illness to make your employer aware, because that’s the first step to them being able to support you and make any adjustments you might need.
I think ever since I changed my attitude to being schizoaffective, I have been able to befriend it and realise it’s not my enemy, but part of who I am. I used to feel embarrassed and was maybe even in denial at first. When I had the shame, I was never in the right mindset to go out and learn what this illness actually is, what is it doing to me, what should I look out for, what are my triggers/warning signs, what help can I get from other people.
The reality is – millions of people are schizoaffective and they are some of the best people you can encounter. They are incredible for living through it every day and I am proud to be one of them.
I hope you found my post useful and big thank you to the wonderful Eleanor Segall for the opportunity to contribute to her fantastic blog! If you’d like to connect over mental health you can find me here –
Here, we’ll cover some of the hidden benefits of cooking at home for those times when you feel like ordering a takeaway or throwing another microwave meal in.
Portion and ingredient control
When you order a takeaway or eat a meal at a restaurant, you don’t have much control over the ingredients used or the size of the portion you get, unless you specify you’re allergic to an ingredient. Home cooking is a great way to eliminate unhealthy ingredients.
Portion sizes vary wildly between restaurants – some are much bigger than we’d make at home, while others are not enough to satisfy us. Everyone’s food intake requirements are different, and the healthiest attitude towards food is to eat a satisfying amount – even if it’s more or less than your friend. Generally, restaurants aren’t a good guide for portion sizes, whereas you’ll know your nutrition requirements when cooking at home.
Making healthier choices
A lot of us have been tempted by an impromptu fast food lunch order when we’re at work. And while there’s nothing wrong with indulging in your favourite takeaways occasionally, doing this too often can leave us feeling lethargic and unhealthy.
Preparing your meals for work in advance gives you the freedom to cook whatever you love the most while incorporating energy-boosting fresh ingredients. Meal prepping has exploded in popularity in the past few years, and for good reason. Whether you batch-prep your meals for work every week or you cook an extra portion of your evening meal for the next day, preparing food for work is great for our health.
You’ll need to make sure your trusty work bag can fit your lunch in – backpacks for women are hugely popular for work now, and they can also fit in plenty of other healthy essentials like a reusable water bottle, plus your work laptop!
It won’t come as a surprise that regular home cooking will keep some more pennies in your purse, especially considering we’re experiencing an increase in the cost of living right now. Dining out at our favourite restaurants is unsurprisingly the most expensive way to eat, but even those visits to the shop for a seemingly cheap meal deal can add up.
Cooking from scratch allows us to cost up our meals and ensure we’re eating within our budget. If you’re finding that you’re priced out of some fresh ingredients, don’t worry – studies have shown that frozen fruit and vegetables are just as healthy. In some cases, frozen produce may even contain higher levels of some nutrients – and come with the added bonus of being easier to prepare!
Mental health benefits
Many of us will already know how relaxing cooking can be. The act of methodically preparing, seasoning, and stirring our food can be therapeutic. Taking the time to cook a meal from scratch tells us that we are worthy of spending time on, which can boost our self-esteem. The act of cooking sometimes requires precision, but it takes us away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and – usually – drags us away from our screens.
While we love dining out and ordering in the occasional fast-food feast, there’s no doubt that home cooking reigns supreme. Not only does it allow us to be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies, but it also allows us to take some time away for ourselves, away from our devices and the busyness of our everyday lives.
This article was written by a freelance writer and contains ad links
TRIGGER WARNING- DISCUSSES SUICIDAL IDEATION, SELF HARM AND BIPOLAR DISORDER. PLEASE READ WITH CARE
This weekend, I went home to my mums to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) and have some quiet, family time. It was wonderful and because our religious laws mean we don’t use the internet, our phone on our festivals, it meant I had time for digital detoxing and switching off. But with that silence, came space. To think and reflect.
Something you may not know about me is that as well as being a writer, throughout the years I have been a prolific diary (journal) writer. The act of putting pen to paper and type to keyboard has always been therapeutic for me in my darkest moments. I found a diary I had written in 2013, when I was living with depression, suicidal ideation and self harm thoughts and actions.
The journal was covered in butterflies- always my symbol of hope. I don’t want to trigger anyone so I will say this carefully- essentially, I was so unwell that for me, my symptoms were: sleeping until the afternoon with a slight break for a meal or tablets, not socialising, finding it hard to wash due to increased anxiety and lethargy, feeling like I didn’t want to wake up the next day and wanting to harm myself in various ways- but being so frightened by these thoughts (because i knew they weren’t really Eleanor) that i had to vocalise them to my family and psychiatrist to keep myself safe. Thats what I did and its why I am still here today, in recovery.
I lived with this depression for about 6 months- my psychiatrist was encouraging me to try Lithium to stablise the bipolar but I wasn’t ready and wanted to see if Quetaipine could halt that. As we know, I became hospitalised for mania soon after in 2014 which led me to recovery and writing my book Bring me to Light.
When you live with an illness like bipolar disorder, you can sometimes forget the nuances of all the details of how you were when you were unwell. For me, I always felt that I handled the depressive episodes ‘better’ than the mania- just because I was able to keep myself as safe as possible by telling my family and doctor and changing medication. My psychiatrist had to come out to see me at home with a nurse as I was so unwell and I wrote out how I felt for him to know.
So many people live with terrible episodes of depression so this blog is just looking back and giving you some knowledge of how it manifested for me. Essentially, depression is a slowing down of the mind towards inactivity, darkness, misery, anxiety, agitation and it is often triggered due to changes in hormones and brain chemistry (if you have a family history its more likely to happen). Depression is not just low mood. Its paralysing. Its not wanting to be in the world and being in so much emotional pain. You may think of ways to harm yourself and you may dream of not being in the world. Or you may be ‘high functioning’. I somehow managed to go to friends weddings during this time despite spending the other days in bed til 5pm- I have no idea how- anti depressants and support helped greatly. However, my depression was dark and invasive.
Now, I had forgotten a lot of these finer details. For me, I never truly wanted to die- I wanted the uncontrollable bipolar to go! The suicidal ideation was my bipolar brain chemistry but also an expression of not coping with life and the bipolar moods I had been given- I was 24 and I couldn’t enjoy life- i was wracked with anxiety too. My mental health was fragile and unstable and it is no way to live- but what saved me, was being hospitalised and finding medication and therapy that has helped me to live in remission (thank God) for 7 years now.
I can say now that my brain chemistry is balanced and even if i ever get sad or frustrated, I don’t have those awful thoughts and if they ever come up, I can deal with them. I have such a supportive partner and family- my family and psychiatrist saved me as well as me trying to save myself- I frightened myself with my thoughts and I had some semblance of being able to keep myself going, which is not possible for everyone. It helped that my Dad has bipolar and could really understand what was going on for me too- he understood exactly how I was feeling but he knew it was the illness and not Ellie. I feel so lucky for that because not everyone has this. My mum, step dad and sister and wider family also were so supportive and never blamed me for being unwell. That helped too. My faith also has helped me dearly,
If youve got this far thank you for reading. My mission is to help others with these conditions feel less alone, through sharing my own experiences. I have been careful not to reveal what certain thoughts were here so I don’t trigger anyone.
If you live with depression and a host of other issues, you can recover again. Hold on. You will not feel like this forever and you can find a level of happiness and stability again. Reach for help, someone you trust, a help line, a psychiatrist and don’t give up.
Social anxiety is quite common but it affects people in different ways, situations and circumstances. Some people may find they have anticipatory anxiety before certain events, like interview days, big events like weddings and public speaking. But for those that suffer with everyday social anxiety this can be equally debilitating.
Living with social anxiety can be tough because it literally affects everything we do. From the choices we make, activities we participate in, opportunities that are presented to us and naturally, the way we live our lives. It can also have a huge impact on the direction of our life and how it unfolds.
For many people living with social anxiety, it can range from mild to very extreme. It’s often triggered due to particular circumstances. Big events such as:–
Going on a date
Meeting new friends
New job interview.
It can also be triggered by everyday events. For example:-
Going to the supermarkets or the shops
Speaking with the cash register assistant
Asking for directions
Walking around in public places.
In order to address the many challenges of social anxiety, we need to understand the specific causes.
Social anxiety manifests itself as tension in the body, elevated heart rate, paranoia, awkwardness, inhibition, not being able to express ourselves in certain moments where we want/need to. This is often caused by the beliefs and the ideas that we hold in our mind. When these are triggered, or we are provoked/threatened by the particular circumstance, this is when the anxiety kicks in.
In our everyday existence, we have two types of thinking.
One type of thinking is known as logistical thinking. This is simply our organisational logical thinking such as, today, I need to get the train. Or we may have thought when we go to the shop, I’m going to buy apples today, they are on the list, together with potatoes and rice. It’s very logistical. This kind of thinking holds no real emotion and is more matter of fact.
However, most people living with social anxiety describe themselves as self-conscious and this is an accurate description of the second kind of thinking, known as self-referential thinking.
Self-referential thinking is where we are referring back to ourselves.
For example… we might have the logistical thought, OK, I need to get the train. But then self-referential thinking would come in, making us consider, what happens if I miss the train? What happens if I’m late for work? What happens if the train is delayed? What will people on the train think of me? Should I be getting the train to work rather than driving?
This is where we apply personal meaning to our circumstances and to the logistical tasks of the day. We give it meaning that relates back to our self-image and identity. Within this, self-referential thinking is where a lot of anxiety is created.
Examples of self-referential thinking
Note: everyone is unique and everyone has their own thought patterns, leanings and identity. Here are some examples of self-referential thinking that can provoke anxiety in people:-
What will people think of me?
What if they don’t like me?
I hope I don’t come across as being awkward.
What if I embarrass myself?
Are they looking at me?
What if I make a mistake?
All of these thoughts can be considered seeds. The first domino in the sequence triggers the momentum of catastrophizing self-referential thinking. This can lead to a sense of anxiety, dread, panic or embarrassment.
Struggle with social anxiety
I actually used to really struggle with social anxiety and this would prevent me from speaking in front of groups. It would make me feel very self-conscious and on edge when I was in supermarkets, when I was around people in public places. I’d often worry about what other people were thinking of me or how I was coming across and I really used to beat myself up over this. It made me feel as though I was somehow inferior or there was something wrong with me.
In my quest to beat social anxiety, I tried a lot of things to try and overcome this. Some of the things I found most impactful were part of my own professional therapy training.
During our practice sessions with my colleagues, we would get to work through many of our fears and anxieties. That provided me with a great deal of relief and clarity.
Another thing that really helped me was the concept of self-acceptance. Because it’s often the things that we reject about ourselves that we then project onto other people. So if we don’t like the shape of our body or the way we look, we will assume that perhaps other people won’t like that either. But that is a projection of our mind onto these people.
It’s none of our business what other people think, it matters more about what we think and self-acceptance is a beautiful concept. A practice where we draw in the things that we feel such great resistance to. Then we seek to embrace it, accept it and claim ownership over it. That way we take back our power and finally give ourselves permission to exist as we are, without judgement or criticism.
After all, this is about reclaiming your sovereignty, your identity, your freedom from these thoughts, insecurities and worries. These are the things holding you back from living your best life, enjoying your life and fulfilling your potential.
Comedians have social confidence
Take comedians for example, they often talk about embarrassing moments and they talk about all the taboo topics such as farting and other awkward encounters whilst everyone in the audience cringes with laughter at the shock factor.
But whilst the audience cringes with laughter, the comedian stands there proudly and boldly, proclaiming to the world. They take ownership of their so-called insecurity or embarrassing moments and they do so with confidence. That’s because a confident person is a self-accepting person. They have claimed ownership over their embarrassing moments and taken their power back from them.
Bringing self-awareness into your thoughts
The first stage of transforming your anxiety is bringing self-awareness to your thought process. The question you need to ask yourself is: What is making me feel anxious?
Some people are afraid of judgement, criticism, embarrassment, drawing attention to themselves, being the odd one out, being rejected.
Whatever it is to you will be unique and if you spend time thinking about this, you will begin to get a clearer understanding of what’s really generating all of this anxiety. It can be helpful to use a notepad and pen for this exercise.
Social anxiety is just a symptom of an unconscious behavioural response. The good news is that it can be changed because all behaviours can be changed. This isn’t something that you’re born with. This isn’t something that you’re destined to live with for the rest of your life. It is something that can be resolved and there are many ways to do this.
Taking the right path for you
Some people feel inspired to take the route of exposure and setting themselves social challenges. This is done in the way of, OK, if I’m afraid of talking to people or more afraid of what people think, I’ll set myself a challenge. Every time I go out in a social situation, I’ll ask someone for the time or ask the shop assistant, how are you doing today?
But whilst that’s all very well for a lot of people living with social anxiety, it can be very intense and confronting, even just getting to that stage can be challenging. So for that reason, professional one to one therapy can be really helpful for this.
Some recommendations would be to first find a therapist that you trust, that you feel a genuine connection with them. Always check to see if they have a proven track record for helping people get results, and that they really are an expert in their field.
Once you find that connection, build that trust and learn to enjoy your unique character, your anxiety levels will fall as you take back control.
Social anxiety is an unconscious behavioural response that’s generated by our beliefs and thought processes, all of which can be challenged and changed..
At some point in our lives, the vast majority of humans on this earth will experience a degree of anxiety in certain social settings. How we react, adapt and behave within these settings is dictated by our attitude and perception of the experience.
Please note: this article relates to facilities and costs in Canada only.
For anyone struggling with alcohol addiction, many different types of addiction services can help. There are inpatient and outpatient programs and 12-step programs, and support groups.
Here are the four main types of alcohol addiction services and what they offer:
Inpatient alcohol addiction services
Inpatient services are typically offered in a hospital or rehabilitation center. Patients live at the facility and receive 24-hour care. This type of service is ideal for severe addictions or those struggling with other mental health issues.
Inpatient services offer a variety of therapies, including individual and group counseling, educational classes, and 12-step programs. Patients also have access to medical care and support 24 hours a day.
The average stay in an inpatient facility is 28 days, but some programs offer longer stays.
Cost: Ranging from $500 to $1500 per day. Many insurance companies will cover some or all of the cost of treatment.
Outpatient alcohol addiction services
The services are offered in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, but patients do not live at the facility. They visit for treatment day or evening, like a Male Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program. This service is ideal for those with mild to moderate addiction or who do not need 24-hour care.
Outpatient services offer a variety of therapies, including individual and group counseling, educational classes, and 12-step programs.
The average length of treatment is three months, but it can vary depending on the patient’s needs.
Cost: Outpatient alcohol addiction services typically cost between $50 and $200 per week.
12-step programs are self-help groups that offer support and guidance to those struggling with addiction. There are many different 12-step programs, but they all follow the same basic steps.
Admitting you have a problem and you need help is the first step.
The second step is finding a sponsor or someone who has been sober for a long time and can help guide you through the program.
The third step is making amends to those you have hurt due to your addiction.
The fourth step is maintaining your sobriety day by day.
12-step programs are free and open to anyone who wants to join them.
Cost: There is no cost associated with 12-step programs.
Support groups are similar to 12-step programs, but they do not follow the same structure or steps. They are simply a place where people can come together to share their experiences and offer support to one another.
Support groups have no charges and are open to anyone who wants to join them.
There are many different alcohol addiction services available to those who need help. Inpatient and outpatient programs offer a variety of therapies, while 12-step programs and support groups provide support and guidance. Choose the service you or your loved one can benefit from and get started on the road to recovery today.
This article was written by freelance writer Rachelle Wilber and contains affiliate links.
I havn’t been sure for many months whether I was ready or wanted to share about the many issues I have been grappling with for a number of years. However, writing for me is therapeutic and so I wanted to share about the reality of mood disorders and thinking about starting a family.
To begin with, this is such a personal and complex issue for anyone with what is termed ‘severe mental illness; ie bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis. Our illnesses mainly have to be managed on daily medication and for some people with severe mental illness, they may still live with daily symptoms which can cause difficulties for them.
So this article is my personal experience of living with Bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety. To note, I was started on Lithium in 2014 after my last hospitalisation- which has stabilised the bipolar episodes into remission (it does something to the seretonin in the brain). I still live with some anxiety, but the combination of Lithium, Quetaipine (an anti psychotic) and anti depressants has meant that I do not become manic or psychotic and nor do I suffer from severe depression or suicidal depression. I feel more stable and I have engaged in therapy for the trauma I went through, for 2 years. So, thankfully at the moment my illness is very much controlled well and I have support from Rob and my family.
One side effects of my medicines has been weight gain and I aim to lose weight over the next year. This is important to me because it can sometimes impact on fertility and also makes a pregnancy more high risk (physical side effects such as blood clots etc). I will also be 34 in July and so this has become more pressing for me in terms of wanting to try for a baby. However, there are many risks in choosing to do this and going ahead, without speaking to a perinatal psychiatrist or mental health team.
Today, I got my referral letter to the mental health team to discuss planning a pregnancy and am on an NHS waiting list til June. For me, because my type of bipolar can be dangerous with the mania and psychosis- and having had several psychotic episodes in my life to date that have ended me up in hospital- a pregnancy where I carry a baby myself, has to be carefully planned in terms of my medication. For many reasons, I want to stay on my medicines for the entire pregnancy- so that I don’t end up relapsing during or straight after pregnancy (with bipolar there is a greater risk of relapse and post partum depression/psychosis due to the hormonal changes straight after birth).
I have been terrified for a number of years over what to do in order to keep me and a potential baby safe. I have researched surrogacy so I don’t risk making myself unwell, but this comes with a whole host of legal challenges around who is the parent, high financial costs (of treatment and paying expenses for surrogate/agencies) etc and the wait for the right surrogate. Surrogates can also pull out before giving. birth, you have to put your trust in them if you don’t know them- and you are trusting them with something hugely important! We also thought about adoption but with my mental health history and the potential issues that a child in care may be facing, I just didn’t want to put myself through the stress of being scrutinised.
So, please God even if we are blessed with a healthy child- the pregnancy may be as a friend of mine has termed ‘high risk’. This scares me and it scares me about potentially ending up in hospital again, on a mother and baby unit. I want to stay on my mood stabiliser and anti psychotic so the bipolar doesn’t cause this- however, I have decided that as long as I can stay on my medication and have the support of an experienced perinatal psychiatrist and mental health team (as well as my therapist),- plus regular monitoring and scans… and of course a proper plan put in place in case of relapse, this is what I will do (again, no one knows until you start trying for a baby and there can be many hurdles but I am trying to think positively).
I have also been asked whether I am worried about passing bipolar on. This is a worry as it does run in my family- however, I believe the risk of this with one parent is only about 10% (I got unlucky). Sometimes, I sit and question- am I being selfish for wanting to be a mother? And I realise, no I am not selfish. I don’t want my potential child to get bipolar disorder but equally if they do, we will deal with it. We also both want to get tested by Jnetics as we are both Ashkenazi (East European) Jews so may be carriers for certain illnesses.
Some women don’t want to be mothers, but I always have done since I was a little girl and I can’t imagine never having a family with my husband. I want to be the best Mum I can be and reduce my illness risk as much as possible to remain stable and well.
Do I wish things were different and I didn’t have this illness? Yes. but the reality is that I do but that I have been stable for a long time. I know we will make good parents whatever way it happens and I just hope the road ahead won’t be paved with challenges… it is never easy. I write this because its not often talked about… and I know there will be more to come on this subject but I wanted to share- if you yourself are going through something similar, you aren’t alone.
It took a lot to share this because its so personal and I worry about sharing too much- but this blog has been years in the making really! There is never a right time to open up- but maybe now I can allow myself to a bit and release the burden.
People sometimes ask me if I have children (as im mid thirties and married) and my answer is always, I hope to one day soon but leave it in Gods hands.