Reflections on 2017 and Festive Greetings from Be Ur Own Light!

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(image: Harrison Greetings)

Here at Be Ur Own Light, it has been a brilliant year in terms of writing, getting the message out there, engagement and gaining a new following. As well as regular blog posts on her life with bipolar and anxiety, I (founder, Eleanor) have written this year for other charities and media outlets. These include : Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change,  Self Harm UK/ Youthscape, Brighton Wellness Centre, The Counselling Directory, Counsellors Cafe, ISMA, World Union of Jewish Students, Equilibrium Magazine and Happiful Magazine. There are upcoming collaborations to be published soon so stay tuned! I also hope to publish more for the Huffington Post in the new year.

The blog has grown into a strong following and particularly we have seen the growth from fellow bloggers on WordPress and Twitter which has been brilliant! Not to mention my loyal following on Facebook and other social media (and email). I have loved doing some Facebook Live videos and discussions too. Thank you everyone who regularly reads, comments, shares and for the awards given this year from fellow bloggers (Liebster, Sunshine, Mystery and of course being a Top 30 Social Anxiety blog and Top 100 Bipolar blog by Feedspot.com). I have also entered the blog into the UK Blog Awards and thank you to everyone who has voted so far.

I have hosted many incredible guest bloggers this year and thank you to all who have submitted high quality and excellent articles (in brackets is what they wrote about:

Lucy Boyle (Burnout Syndrome)
Quite Great and Helen Brice (Music Psychotherapy)
Bailey Chauner at Redfin (Seasonal affective disorder)
UnitedMind Laughter Yoga (Jobs and wellbeing)
Christina Hendricks at mentalhealthzen.com (PTSD and veterans)
Reviews Bee (Child Mental Health)
Mental Health and Money Worries  (Mental health and money)
Stephen Smith nOCD App (OCD)
Arslan Butt (Mental health)
Tony Weekes Unity MHS (his story)
Ellie Miles (Health anxiety)
Hope Virgo (Anorexia recovery/ book by Trigger Press)
Ann Heathcote Worsley Centre of Psychotherapy
Adar (PTSD and relationship abuse)
Marcus (Bipolar disorder)
Diamond E Health Informer (Mental Health and Technology)   
Lystia Putranto and Karina Ramos (Anxiety)
Paradigm San Francisco (Internet and teen mental health)
Juno Medical (Anxiety infographic)
Jasmine Burns (Binge eating disorder)
Bill Weiss (Opiate withdrawal)
Jessica Flores (Bipolar 2)
Jimmy Vick (Meditation)
Jay Pignatiello (Mindfulness and Meditation)
David Baum (365 Challenge for PTSD and Mind)
Karen (Anxiety as a mental health professional)
Dr Stacey Leibowitz-Levy (Online CBT) 

I have also written a lot about my journey with bipolar disorder and anxiety and hope to continue to do so in the new year!

Be Ur Own Light will be celebrating its second birthday in March 2018 and we can’t wait to see what next year holds.

We wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year period- Festive Greetings to all!

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On Developing Positivity and Hope: A Self Development Journey

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(image: motivation grid)

Its a brand new week. I have of late been struggling with anxiety attacks again (when I go to sleep sometimes the feared situation pops up in my mind and stops me from doing what I want to do) so I am taking time to heal myself and be more positive. I want to find hope and live a more positive life so I can live the life I want to live.

This prompted me to start my friend Holly Matthews 21 Day Happy Me Project. This blog is not an advert for it, but the course is something I am doing for me, using positive affirmations and thinking, the law of attraction and goal setting to find techniques to live a happier, healthier life. So, I have printed off my work book, listened to the first webinar and audio and aim to set a few mini goals and start work. Also, Holly is awesome and a big inspiration to me!

My anxiety disorder is  a struggle- I still can’t seem to get it under control, its like taming a beast. However I hope that through finding a more positive mindset and talking out my feelings in therapy (separate to this project) that I will start to feel better again.

I am working on self development at the moment, however long it takes but must remember to be kind to myself and keep going through the storms.

Guest Post by Reviews Bee: How to Prevent the Negative Impact on Child Mental Health

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(image: http://acelebrationofwomen.org/2015/02/childrens-mental-health-matters-take-action/)

The physical health of children has always been an important aspect. Nowadays with the increase of stressful situations, modern medicine is concerned about the importance of childrens mental health, as it plays an important role in their personal development, upbringing and growth into adulthood.

There can be negative impacts on a child’s mental  health, which can be demonstrated as depression, anger, addictions or other mental health conditions.  If you notice behavioural changes in your child, you should take important steps to reach out and help them.

First, identify the reasons.

Everyone faces daily problems and children are not an exception, but in contrast to adults, they are not always able to cope with the relevant issues or take steps to get out of the situation. At times, they may be unable to properly express their feelings appropriate to the situation.

It should be noted that psychological health is formed by the interaction of internal and external factors, including environment. Amongst the most common situations causing mental disorder are tense situations in the family, problems at school such as bullying or low grades and sometimes internet bullying via social media.

As soon as the problem is identified, you, as a parent, should go forward and help your child as much as you can . The following steps are good approaches to the problem:

  1. Communicate with your child

Always have time to talk to your child. Be interested in their problems and show that you care, ask them to tell you about their day and try to understand troubling points in their daily life. You should be able to give advice, but understand their rights to make their own decisions and respect their opinions. Learn to treat the child as an equal partner, so they will share their sincere feelings and problems- so you can help.

 

  1. Help your child with their lifestyle

If home or school is a difficult environment, try and make it as calm as possible for your child. It is good to balance work and relaxation for the child. Make sure that they sleep on time, as proper sleep is required for their nervous system to calm down. You can even help the diet of the child with good nutrition and include more food rich in protein, vegetables and fruits. It is also good to encourage positive activities and hobbies.

 

  1. Teach positive thinking

Help your child to find and see sources of positive emotions. Positive thinking will also help the child to find inner peace in different situations. Encourage the child to build plans for the future, set goals and develop ways of reaching them. Being a role model for your child is so important with this.

 

  1. Boost the childs self-esteem

You should help your child to increase self-esteem, as this can be at the core of unhappiness or mental health issues at home or school. Your task is to prove their worth and how good they truly are. You should assist the child in finding their confidence and improving their self esteem so they can thrive. If you struggle with this, it may help to contact a therapist to help them.

 

  1. Work with a psychologist.

Many parents decided to get their child referred to work with a psychologist. If your child is truly struggling, this can be helpful. Some tips and guidance granted on the specific needs of your child may prevent future problems and boost their mental health.

This article was written by Reviews Bee at http://www.reviewsbee.com/

Hitting the Pause Button: Taking a step back to promote Wellness

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(image: https://blogrhiaepoitiers.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/il-est-temps-de-faire-une-pause/)

Last week was particularly tough for me as I have written about and I felt really down. So this week, I decided to hit the pause button and just relax as best as I could, before attending job interviews next week. I am staying at my Dads in the countryside this week and while I have been doing a little bit of job hunting/ applying, I have mainly been resting and trying to promote as much relaxation as possible. I felt so drained and stressed out last week when I received some difficult news and knew I should take a step back in order to promote my wellbeing. I am feeling so much better, after having lots of sleep and not beating myself up over what went wrong.

Sometimes, I think that when we go through hard times, it can be all consuming. Your brain replays the upsetting event and tries to analyse it and think where you went wrong or if you could have done something differently. This week, after several days of this, I have chosen to pause. I have had to, for my own sanity. I am also lucky that even though financially things can be hard, I have the support of my family. Not everyone has that. That has made me be able to be more positive as well. I know that I am one of the lucky ones in that.

Last night, I went to the cinema to see Paddington 2 which was adorable. A very sweet, happy, family movie. Just what was needed really!

I know that things will get better again and am trying to draw on my strength and past experiences to be resilient and move forward. It is never easy. I am hopeful this week that I will get there, and part of that is from pausing and regrouping.

Raising our Voices: Stigma and Bipolar Disorder (For Equilibrium Magazine Issue 63)

I was asked by Equilibrium magazine, an online magazine dedicated to mental health and wellbeing by those with lived experience, to write an article for them. I chose to write it on stigma and bipolar disorder and here it is. You can also read it online at :   https://issuu.com/antz333/docs/equilibrium_2063

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I am very excited to be writing my first article for Equilibrium. In this article I
will discuss stigma and life with bipolar.

I have lived with bipolar disorder for thirteen years, having been diagnosed at just
sixteen years old. The illness runs in my family, but it was still a shock when I
found myself unwell in hospital as a teenager. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder,
which means moods can oscillate between depressive lows and manic highs that
can be treated with medication and therapies. When depressed, one might find
oneself feeling extremely negative and unable to do activities previously enjoyed
or, in bad cases, suicidal and unable to cope with life. When in a manic state, one
may be in a heightened hyperactive state, talking fast/not making sense and
unable to sit still. A person may act in ways they would not usually behave when
in a typical state. This can then spill over into psychosis, with delusions and a loss
of touch with reality, which can eventually lead to hospitalisation in severe cases.
There is currently no cure for the disorder; however, mood stabilising medications
such as Lithium, prescribed by a psychiatrist, and courses of therapy can very
much help. It is believed that bipolar may be caused by a chemical imbalance in
the brain, but there is still so much we do not know. It is for this reason that
stigma about the disorder and other mental health conditions, pervades across
the world.

So, what is stigma? Stigma can be defined by the Oxford dictionary as a ‘mark of
disgrace associated with a circumstance, quality or person’. In terms of mental
illness, people fear what they have not experienced, do not know and do not
understand. It is the fear and ignorance that then perpetuates myths about those
who struggle with their mental health.

Due to the sometimes unpredictable nature of mental illness, in our case, bipolar
disorder, fear and stigma are most definitely generated. When people haven’t
been through the suicidal, heart-wrenching lows, and the sometimes equally
terrible highs, they will comment that the person is ‘attention-seeking’ and just
doing it to get a reaction from other people. We have seen this recently when
depressed celebrities, for example singer Sinéad O’Connor (who has bipolar), open
up to the world about their demons. They get criticised, shot down, told they are
being drama queens, silenced, as if their problems are trivial. There is nothing
trivial about serious mental illness or how the brain can trick you into feeling.
There is nothing trivial about feeling so unwell you can’t get out of bed, wash,
live. There is nothing trivial about experiencing suicidal tendencies and not having
support, because support networks are the one thing that keep bipolar sufferers,
and those with other conditions, going. Without my support network, I know I
would find things so much harder.

So, how do we tackle this stigma? In one word: talking. Telling people about our
experiences. Sharing the world of people who have mental health issues and
reflecting it back to wider society, through explaining to non sufferers what its
like to live with a mental health condition. It Is so important to show wider
society the world inhabited by people with mental health conditions. Everyone
is different. Its vital to explain the unexplainable. Talking about our symptoms
but showing how we can reach recovery or what recovery means to us.

I began speaking about my experiences online via my WordPress blog ‘Be Ur Own
Light’ (www.beurownlight.com) about a year and a half ago. The blog began as a
diary, as I was navigating life with a difficult anxiety disorder which made it
difficult for me to hold down a job long term. I still live with this anxiety and am
learning how to manage it. When I first began writing, I did it secretly and only
showed it to close family members and wrote under pseudonyms. I was effectively
testing the waters to see the reaction. I was frightened I would get negative
feedback.

I began writing for charities such as Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change and
Bipolar UK, under pseudonyms, because I didn’t yet feel able to associate my name
with the illness. I was scared, and I suppose was experiencing some self-stigma. In
thirteen years I had never written about my illness or mental health online,
though I had explained it to close friends. I remember the day when my first
article for Rethink was published –‘Being Jewish and Bipolar’- and getting hundreds
of likes, shares and positive comments. This built my confidence, and, over the
course of a year, I wrote for more charities and even started writing for the
Huffington Post Lifestyle blog and other websites/magazines under my real name.

A month or two ago, I decided to write all my mental health blogs under my real
name. There is still so much work for us all to do to bring down the stigma, but it
starts from raising our voices. We deserve to be heard and we need to talk in order
to make mental health issues ‘normal’ in society and to fight for better treatment.
One in four people suffer, although I would argue the figure is more like one in
two. Together we can battle, speak out and one day beat the stigma.

Eleanor Segall is a mental health writer and advocate, who has written for many
charities and magazines. She currently works for mental health and learning
disability charity The Judith Trust. Her blog ‘Be Ur Own Light’
(www.beurownlight.com) is read globally and tackles her life with mental health
issues and those of guest bloggers. Eleanor can be found on Twitter and Instagram

Letter to my MP: On Mental Health and Talking Therapy Waiting Lists

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(image: Imperial College)

I have just responded to a letter that my MP replied to me today. The other day I wrote to my MP here in London about the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill which aims to stop dangerous restraint in mental health hospitals. This was a campaign through the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

I was sadly less than impressed with the response I received even though it was quick, my MP quoted a lot of figures at me. Now, one of these figures, ‘750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/10’ really got to me. In 2015, I had a short course of NHS cognitive behavioural therapy which was useful but didnt help my anxiety. However, since late 2015/ early 2016, I have been on the therapy waiting list for talking therapy to help me process the trauma I have been through, Almost 2 years later, I am still on the list and have had to go privately which is less than ideal as you will see in my letter below. I hope it resonates with you and that my MP will use my case study in parliament ( one can only hope):

Dear MP,

Thank you for your swift response to my letter regarding the Mental Health Units Use of Force Bill. In your letter to me, you stated ‘more people accessing mental health services every day….as well as around 750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/2010’.

As someone with Bipolar disorder who was hospitalised (and sectioned) in 2014 for 4 months, with another 4 months in day hospital due to psychosis and mania, I have been on the waiting list for talking therapy since 2015- almost 2 years ago. When I recently went to a review with my psychiatrist, he said he would speak to psychology for me but that because the service is over stretched I may have to seek therapy via local charities or go privately. Being that I am currently waiting to start work and on ESA, I couldn’t afford private therapy without help from my family and I have had to go private which is grossly unfair due to the trauma I have faced. However, as you state, more people are accessing mental health services meaning that even in someone with a case such as mine, I have had to wait for talking therapy and effectively given up on NHS support in that regard.

I hope you will use my case study as an example in parliament when discussing mental health with Theresa May and your party and would appreciate a response. 

Yours sincerely,

Eleanor Segall

New Look Site on Be Ur Own Light: a Mental Health Recovery Blog!

I wanted to make Be Ur Own Light clearer to access and easier to read aesthetically. I hope you like some of the minor changes to make it more accessible.

Welcome too to all our new followers- we are nearly at 300 on WordPress and over 3,000 on Twitter and over 2,000 on Instagram.

Be Ur Own Light is written to challenge mental health stigma and more posts will be published shortly.

Thanks,

Eleanor, founder of Be Ur Own Light

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 !

Monday Motivation: Update on Mental Health Life

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(image by blossom and leap via Pinterest)

Last week, I saw my new psychiatrist. He is the kindest man and so helpful. He signposted me to several private mental health services as I very much need therapy for my anxiety disorder. What was sad to see though that these services are not provided by the National Health Service NHS- they are provided by charities, as the NHS service where I live is at breaking point. This is because there are so many people needing psychological input and not enough staff and money. Ultimately it comes down to funding I think. In the past, I have had excellent NHS therapy- although it did not seem to help with the anxiety long term.   So far, I have been on the waiting list for therapy for almost 2 years and I have realised I can’t rely on the NHS for therapy, which is sad.

However, I am grateful I was able to sit down with my new consultant (and Mum) and discuss my life and where I go from here. I am looking into various options for my health and which psychotherapy can help me move forward, get back to work and feel good again.

I am trying to be as positive as I can and think about a happy future. My priority is working on myself so that I can truly thrive. Have a great Monday friends.

Living with Bipolar Disorder: my True story- for Counselling Directory Website

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Be Ur Own Light author Eleanor tells her story for Counselling Directory. 

Article: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/experience_236.html

I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder at just 16 years old. I had been admitted to hospital after a year of depressive and anxious episodes, followed by a hypomanic episode (a lesser episode of mania). People with bipolar have a mood disorder which means our moods can become extreme and oscillate between low and high.

After a year of not understanding what was happening, I finally came to accept the diagnosis. You see, bipolar runs in my family. There is evidence it can be genetic but, as I was so young, no one suspected that my depression and hypomania could be bipolar disorder. I was hospitalised as a teenager in 2004 due to a mixed state of depression and psychosis (where your mind loses touch with reality).

Luckily, with medication and support, I was able to live a fairly ‘normal’ life for several years. Despite having to go down a year at school, I made it to University and completed a Bachelors and Masters degree. I went travelling with friends to India and Ghana, regularly took my medication – mood stabilisers and antidepressants – and was supported by various psychiatrists and therapists, as well as my wonderful family and friends.

But the trauma of what I went through caused an increase in my anxiety levels and I developed social anxiety, fearing what others thought of me. I also became slightly agoraphobic and suffered from panic attacks. Bipolar is such a complex disorder and sometimes anxiety can be a part of the depressive side of the illness.

Over time, I believe that my main medication stopped working. This coupled with several life events, meant I became unwell fast. In 2013, I began to sink into a very low depressive state which led to suicidal thinking. I became very unwell, but supported by my family and upped dosages of medicine, I got better again. However, this was short lived.

In 2014, I spiralled into the worst manic episode of my life. I had racing thoughts and pressured speech, was very fearful of those around me and began to experience delusions (false beliefs about the world). I was incredibly vulnerable and unwell. Unfortunately, the episode happened very quickly and although I hadn’t been in hospital for 10 years, suddenly I found myself there, waiting to be treated.

Being in hospital this time was hard; it took a while for the psychiatry team to bring me down from the manic state. I was in hospital for four months, attending therapy groups (I loved art therapy) and working with occupational therapists, nurses and a wonderful psychiatrist who believed I would get well again.

I did get better again in time. I had a further four months of support when I left hospital, where I was put on the correct mood stabiliser for me – Lithium – which has helped keep the moods at bay. I attended day therapy sessions on anxiety management, recovery, art and social groups and I slowly came out of my shell again. I was in shock and quite traumatised at what had happened to me. However, over time and with support, I accepted it and began to recover.

Since that difficult time, I have worked for and volunteered with mental health charities and supported communal projects. I also started my blog, Be Ur Own Light, in 2016 to explain to family and friends about my mental health. It has been read worldwide and its aim is to tackle mental health stigma and share real-life stories.

I also began to write for the Huffington Post UK, Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change and Bipolar UK, amongst others. Writing is therapy for me.

My message would be that the right medical team, coupled with support networks, psychotherapy, medication and doing things you love to do, can help you feel much better and find recovery. I, like so many with mental health issues, am still a work in progress but to reach any form of recovery is a big milestone and I will fight to remain well. You can too.