Tag Archives: Mental illness

Experts share strategies to stop Binge Eating. Guest post by Jasmine Burns

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Binge eating is a very serious disorder. Someone who has binge eating disorder will most likely be of normal weight, therefore making it hard to recognize if they have it by just looking at them. Signs and symptoms that you or someone you love have this disorder can include of the following:

  • Eating a lot of food in one sitting
  • Keep eating even when you are physically full
  • Dieting often without losing weight
  • Keeping food around you at all times

Binge eating can have vastly negative effects on your health and life. The impacts are not just physical but also emotional. Binge eating generates shame, guilt, anxiety and depression. These are emotional stressors that can cause your blood sugar levels to go awry.

We have sought out the expertise of professionals who share ways you can have control over this disorder. Please read through them to learn coping mechanisms.

https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/53-experts-share-life-changing-tips-strategies-stop-binge-eating/

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Nobody’s Perfect: An Update on life with Anxiety

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I have put off writing for several weeks just because its so hard to make sense of everything going on in my brain, in terms of my anxiety disorder.

I have had so many good things in the past few weeks but I am also battling anxiety around work. I love my job but past events relating to employment have made me afraid subconsciously. I very much need to unpack these fears with a therapist- I have been on the therapy waiting list for a year and a half. In a few weeks, I will be seeing my new psychiatrist (roughly the 12th/13th one in 13 years due to high staff turnaround!)  and I hope that he will escalate my therapy. I desperately need help with this as I get morning panic attacks around these fears. Despite using self help methods like meditation, these fears can be all consuming and stop me from going into work.

It is incredibly difficult for me to write about this because its so personal and because I love what I do. However, I have been struggling and I hope by writing that yes, I do get panic attacks about my fears, I can also make others feel less alone.

I did get some respite from these fears and work have been very supportive of me. I was able to go with my friend for a week on holiday to Madeira, a Portugese island off the main land near North Africa. Its a beautiful island, filled with terracotta roofed houses, turquoise seas, dolphins, whales and  turtles, friendly people, bright sunshine and palm trees. We went on a boat trip and got to see some spotted dolphins and relaxed in and by our hotel swimming pools. Not to mention the love for Cristiano Ronaldo on the island, as he is from there and the airport is named after him! It was a really restful and fun trip. I wasn’t anxious all week- as it seems to get triggered by specific fears and situations.

I just hope to get back to full health again and get some extra support around the fears that are fuelling my panic.

I tend to beat myself up about having an anxiety disorder and feeling ‘incapable’ of doing certain things. I am learning self love and to be calmer and to just see my anxiety as a hurdle to be overcome. I may be a perfectionist who hates letting others down
– but I am learning, like the Jessie J song, that Nobodys Perfect. 

Bipolar Disorder: Fears and Living with a Chronic Illness

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I have always pledged in my blogs and writing to be as honest as possible- to be authentic- and tell the real story about living with mental health issues.  This blog came about from a Facebook poll and was voted what you wanted to hear about. So, here it is in all its beautiful glory!

Its been a difficult few weeks here with my anxiety disorder (which I will write about another time) and again this just highlights how up and down life with mental health conditions can be.  Recovery is not a smooth process – its always a mix of challenges, happiness, tears, excitement, fear.. mixed with peaks and troughs.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar affective disorder (a mood disorder where you get depressive and manic ‘high’ episodes) as a teenager. The fear at being diagnosed at such a young and delicate age is palpable. You fear everyones reactions and judgement. You fear whether you will be in and out of hospital. You fear whether you will ever be well or whether your medication will hold you. You wonder whether you can pick your life up again or whether you will always be different from your friends and those around you.

I wondered if I would ever go to university, travel, achieve my career dreams, have boyfriends, settle down, live my life again  (I did slowly but it took time and is a constant process). I had no idea what life held in store for me (and at times still don’t!). I am still a work in progress. I had no idea if psychosis would be ever present or if I would carry on feeling suicidal, or if I would spend my life on hospital in patient wards or in countless psychotherapy sessions. Bipolar is chronic because there is no ‘cure’. There are medications to address the chemical imbalance and therapy to help manage life but it cannot be fully eradicated.

I think when you are diagnosed with any chronic illness, you fear with a capital F. You start off by fearing what this means to your life. For me personally, I had to grow up fast. I avoided alcohol and mind altering substances . I made sure I had enough sleep and ate well. I tried to protect myself from negative people- which is hard when you are vulnerable).  I strove for my goals when I was well and relied on my support network when I wasn’t.

I have had to pick myself up countless times. I had years of depression and suicidal thoughts, some at the very time I was completing my Masters Degree. I have had countless anxiety attacks, social anxiety and fears around other people, work anxiety. I have lost my sanity due to a manic episode of illness and had to be medicated, helped and cared for away from home. Even though I am currently well with the Bipolar, the anxiety can take over. I am learning to use Yoga and Meditation to heal my mind and I am doing so much better.

The fear of ending up back in hospital is ever present. The fear of my loved ones having to see me unwell again is palpable. However, my mood stabiliser Lithium Carbonate seems to be holding me well. I no longer feel depressed or manic and my moods are in a ‘normal’ range. I do have certain side effects from medication including weight gain, thirst and having to have heart ECGs or blood tests to check my physical health is ok. This is part of the pay off Bipolar sufferers have for staying mentally well.

There are many uncertain things in my future. Pregnancy could be a difficult time, where I could become ill again and am vulnerable to post natal depression or psychosis. I
will need to be under a consultant specialising in this area.  Life stressors could get too much. However, I prefer to live my life in the NOW, enjoy each day and make the most of each day. I have learnt to be relentlessly positive and with self care and my support network I can get through anything.

There are  still times when I cry and I fear and I live in that fearful place. It is only natural with a condition that flares up at different times- especially in times of hormonal change or life stress. However, I truly believe that by finding positivity and keeping going despite the darkness, I will find the light. My boyfriend, friends and family are wonderful and I couldn’t ask for more support. This is what also gets me through. My belief in God and the Universe, in love and light and good times, will get me there. I will fight to stay well.

A Week of Contrasts: On Resilience and Mental Health

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I can’t believe that today is Friday. The past few weeks have felt a bit like a rollercoaster ride- with many ups and downs. However,  I am feeling more like me, more centred and a lot less anxious.

This is due to many reasons. Firstly, I found the inner strength on Monday and managed to get in to work. I had been off for the entire week before with panic attacks and was not feeling myself. I even had to miss a fun spa day planned with my close friends, as I was waking up with morning panic which took over. Everything became heightened and scary. So Monday, I woke up in much the same way. However by 11am, the adrenaline and the fears has dissipated and I was able, with the help of my Mum, to get into work. I had broken the cycle!

For me, when I break the cycle and do the thing I fear, I find more confidence that I will be OK. I think to myself, I survived this and my work colleagues were so supportive. It gave me that boost I needed to remind me that my anxiety disorder doesn’t have to take over everything. I love my job and could not work for a more understanding company. So, I said to myself- You can do this. You love this work. You are safe.

Tuesday I had a medical appointment and asked for the support I have needed for a long time- therapy to help manage the anxiety. I have had a lot of therapy for this.

Wednesday was an excellent day at work, I was in all day, facilitated a group on my own and it went really well, socialised with my colleagues and have a lovely albeit busy and tiring day. I still need to learn to pace myself!

Thursday I was feeling really exhausted from the day before but it was still a good day. I practised being calm and caught up on my sleep. I have found a really good app I am using for meditiations to relax me, destress, put me in a positive mood or help me to sleep.  Its called Insight Timer and I love it, it has lots of free meditiations. I find meditiation really helps me- particularly calming guided ones.

Today I did some social media and writing work. Tomorrow, I am doing absolutely nothing and I cannot wait. I am so tired but so proud of my achievements this week. Sunday we have a family barbeque and my best friends leaving drinks. I am so happy its the weekend and feeling positive- I can achieve despite the panic and I can use self help to get me where I want to be. I just hope I can continue in my positive mindset. It isn’t easy and its a constant battle and journey. I will get there.

Anxiety Gremlins: Panic, Exhaustion and everything in between

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guest post by Karen: Being a Mental Health Professional with Anxiety, my Recovery

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Working in an outpatients’ mental health service in the NHS I was well-placed to recognise the signs and symptoms of a mental health problem. I have seen most ends of the spectrum from working in a secure men’s forensic unit, treating people experiencing psychosis in a clinic and in their homes, to treating outpatients with mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Yet none of this prepared me for my own mental health crisis that crept up on me suddenly and unexpectedly last year.

I have experienced anxiety in my life on many occasions before. I developed a fear of panicking and losing control going on the tube and was starting to avoid taking tubes and trains and places I felt I could not escape from easily. Later on I realised this was panic and agoraphobia and since I was considering dropping out of my Masters degree because it involved travelling long routes by tube, I knew I had to get some help. I had a course of CBT privately using graded exposure therapy which I had to get on board with and be committed to, and was incredibly effective for me. My CBT therapist was a real lifeline for me and we had an effective rapport which really helped.

I have since moved out of London and abroad. In September last year I started a number of new part-time teaching roles (not in mental health) in my relatively new European city. I was really worried about my ability to speak the language and to be able to communicate if there was a problem. In fact, I had pretty much spent my entire summer holiday dreading, worrying and catastrophising about all the things that could go wrong, and didn’t really tell anyone exactly how I was feeling.

I started in one of my jobs and it seemed to be going just fine the first week. I did experience a lot of worry after each class and before the next one. I was really concerned about how other people would perceive and judge me, particularly as I was not yet fluent in the language and could not understand 100%. I continued to be anxious about how other people thought I was doing my job for the next few days and had consistently negative thoughts that would not go away which were concerning as they seemed to upset me more and more. I remember that on the last day of that first week, I had been introduced to my new colleague, a really lovely lady who seemed really helpful. She was really experienced and obviously had a lot of knowledge and I started to feel inadequate in that moment. That was the moment everything spiralled out of control.

I went home and over the weekend I experienced constant racing thoughts of things going wrong and worst case scenarios. My husband and I were watching TV in the evening and I just could not focus on anything as my mind was racing so much. What surprised me the most was how physically I felt the anxiety this time and how different it was to any anxiety I had before this. I felt hot and cold every few minutes, had the sweats and could not sleep for days. I could not seem to regulate my emotions and rationalise them. I retreated to bed to warm up and calm down and called my mum for moral support. I lost my appetite and could physically not put anything in my mouth apart from forcing some sugar down me.

This pattern continued the closer it came to Monday. I found it really hard to get out of bed – I was heavy, anxious and tired due to lack of sleep. It was hard to sit up straight and I forced myself to have breakfast. I have never felt before the way I felt that day. I was inconsolably crying, paralysed with terror, and curled up on the sofa. I called in sick to work and spent the best part of the entire day on the phone to my parents who flew out the next day to be with me. All of this was entirely alien to my husband. He knew I worked in mental health but I guess I never realised that he totally didn’t understand what I did and what mental health looks like. He had no idea what was going on with me and had to learn how to support me.

I am really lucky to have found a supportive and really competent GP when it comes to managing mental health. I wanted to be put on a course of medication as I know that medication is a key part of the treatment equation and the SSRIs I am on have helped tremendously. My GP also gave me a temporary course of benzodiazepine very closely monitored by her to help me with the initial stage of going to work, coping with the anxiety and helping me sleep initially.

All in all, this was a really acute depressive/anxious episode and I did go back to work the following week with a LOT of positive self-talk, support from husband and family, and a chill pill. My recovery was gradual and I guess I realised that we are all vulnerable at one time or another. My parents have both experienced anxiety and depression over their lives and I know that having a depressive episode makes it more likely that we will experience further episodes.

Recovery means making your mind your priority and this is what I’ve tried to do. I have regular follow-ups with the GP every few weeks as I’m still taking medication. I am concerned about how coming off the medication might affect me but I have a good relationship with my doctor and trust that she will manage that process with me in the next few months. When I’m feeling anxious and restless I know I need to up my exercise to channel my adrenaline elsewhere. I try to facetime friends and family more often and say what I’m feeling more. My friends have been so supportive and didn’t judge or change their behaviour towards me when I told them- I found it really hard to tell them though. Having a good night’s sleep helps too- going to bed and waking up at regular times. I have also found Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) self- help reading to be extremely helpful too and highly recommend “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris- a refreshingly easy way of managing difficult emotions and learning to live with them.

The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone who is struggling with negative thoughts, depression, anxiety, stress, is to tell the people closest to you what helps you. Sometimes it’s the fact that our family’s, partners, friends don’t know what helps or what to say which causes more stress or potential conflict. Tell them what you would like them to do or say to you when you are feeling a certain way. I told my husband that every time I start to feel anxious, inadequate and catastrophising about my work, to remind me of how much enjoyment I have had at work and the positive things I say when I get home from work.

I don’t believe that a cardiologist should have experienced a heart attack to make them more capable of treating a patient effectively, but as a Mental Health Professional, I do have that bit more compassion and understanding of the vulnerability that we all have, no matter which chair you are sitting in.

 

 

Guest post by Lucy Boyle: What you need to know about Burnout Syndrome

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Stress and pressure are a part of everyday life. Our jobs often bring a fast pace; we may have to meet deadlines, complete projects in a certain timeframe, or put up with stressful environments. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s a certain amount of stress that just “comes with the job”.

However, there are times when the pressure gets to be too much. You may have been dealing with days, weeks, months, or even years of too much work and not enough downtime. The stresses of the job may be piling up with the stresses at home. Eventually, you run the risk of what is known as “burnout syndrome”.

Burnout syndrome, also known as occupational or job burnout, is defined as “a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” The symptoms of burnout include:

  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Frustration and negative emotions
  • Lack of motivation
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Reduced performance on the job
  • Lack of personal care, unhealthy coping mechanisms (eating, smoking, drinking, etc.)
  • Interpersonal difficulties, both on the job and at home
  • Preoccupation with work, even when you’re not working
  • Chronic health problems
  • Illness (the result of chronic stress)
  • Headaches
  • Decreased satisfaction with the quality of your life

If you’re noticing these symptoms in your life, you may be suffering from or getting close to burnout.

But what causes burnout syndrome? How does it get from “I’m having a bad day at work” to the feeling of being overwhelmed, overburdened, and emotionally drained? There are a lot of things that can contribute to the feelings of burnout.

  • Interpersonal relationship problems at work, with coworkers, employees, or employers.
  • A lack of control in your life, feeling like you have no say in anything that goes on at work or home.
  • A lack of clarity in your job description or burden of responsibilities.
  • Monotony or chaos in your job—both can require a lot of energy to remain focused.
  • Company ethics, values, or methods of handling feedback, grievances, or complaints that are not aligned with yours.
  • A job that doesn’t fit with your skills or interest.
  • Isolation at work or home; you may feel like your social support is lacking.
  • An imbalance in your work-life routine, usually too much time spent at work and not enough at home.

All of these factors can add to your feelings of stress and anxiety. Over time, they simply INCREASE until you feel like the burden of your job is too much to bear.

The truth is that occupational burnout is incredibly common, especially among human service professions. ER physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, police officers, and customer service reps are all at a very high risk of burnout. The high-pressure environment and occupation add to the emotional demands of the job. Eventually, everything becomes too much to bear and you suffer from burnout.

So what can you do if you’re feeling burned out? How can you cope with the mounting stress and pressure that may eventually become too much to bear?

Engage socially. Social interaction and connection is one of the most effective antidotes to depression, anxiety, and stress. Spending time with family, friends, and coworkers can help you to feel better. Making friends at work can change the environment positively, making work seem less stressful because of you have a social support framework in place. Open up to people and share your feelings. It can release some of the pressure building inside you and encourage better connection with others.

Reframe your perspective. Instead of seeing work as a bore, a chore, or a stressor, try to find value in what you do. Your job benefits someone, so look at what you do as providing an invaluable service.

Evaluate your priorities. What’s more important to you: work or home life? If your career is important, find ways to focus on it without adding to your stress. Work on a better work-life balance. Take more time off work, even if it means someone else gets the promotion you wanted. Set boundaries on your time and availability. Set aside time to relax and unwind, both in the middle of and at the end of the day. Stop rushing around so much—from home to work and back home again. Focus on what matters: your health and happiness!

Change your lifestyle. Get more sleep. Eat better. Exercise more. Drink less coffee and alcohol. Read more books. Walk in the park more. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Move around more. Quit smoking. Improve your lifestyle, and you’ll find your body and mind better able to cope with the feelings of stress that could lead to burnout.

In the end, YOU are the one in control of your life. Make the decisions that will reduce stress, not add to it. Take care of your body, mind, and emotions, and you’ll avoid those feelings of burnout!

Lucy Boyle (@BoyleLucy2), is a full-time mother, blogger and freelance business consultant, interested in finance, business, home gardening and mental health.