Tag Archives: recovery

Guest post: 5 Tips to Survive Opiate Withdrawal by Bill Weiss

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Bill Weiss shares his knowledge about drug and opiate addiction and how to recover, talking us through the withdrawal process in a safe way. It must be done under medical supervision.

An addiction to heroin or one of the many prescription opiates, such as Vicodin or Percocet, comes with intense withdrawal symptoms. For many, the withdrawal symptoms are what drive them into an early relapse, in hopes of ending the symptoms rather than enduring them.

 The withdrawal process can be unbearable, but there are ways to make it easier. In order to prevent early relapse, let’s break down the opiate withdrawal timeline and how a person can alleviate some of those symptoms.

The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that each person’s withdrawal process will be a bit different from the other. Withdrawal symptoms fully depend on the individual, his or her habits while using, and the addict’s brain chemistry. Opiate withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to severe and debilitating.

 The reason opiates cause such intense withdrawal symptoms is because of the effect they have on the user’s brain. Opiates impact the opioid receptors, which are found in the central nervous system. By targeting the opioid receptors, they adjust the brain’s response to pain while the drug is in the user’s system. This causes both physical and emotional effects, numbing the pain both physically and emotionally. Medically, this is why many doctors prescribe opiates as a pain killer.

 Unfortunately, if a person uses opiates long enough, it alters the chemistry of the brain. Eventually, the brain relies on the drug to control any amount of pain, big and small. When a person abruptly stops providing this supply of opiates to the brain, everything suddenly becomes unbearably painful as the body is no longer able to regulate pain. This sudden onset of pain signals flooding the brain is withdrawal.

 The early stage of withdrawal typically lasts for 24 to 48 hours, and it can start anywhere from a few hours to 30 hours after the last use of the drug. This can include muscle soreness, irritability, trouble sleeping, sweating, a rapid heartbeat and a lack of appetite.

 Fortunately, that earliest stages are the toughest. Later withdrawal symptoms can also be difficult, though, as cramping, shaking, nausea and vomiting may continue. The worst of these later withdrawals usually ends within a few days of sobriety, though for some may continue on for several weeks.

 Most people find that the majority of their withdrawal symptoms are gone after about a week. There may be some lingering anxiety and nausea afterwards, which can lead to a lack of appetite. Cravings for opiates, however, often last much longer.

Getting Through the Withdrawal Process

Opiate withdrawal is no picnic, but finding the right strategy to get through it can help. These are five of the best ways to get past those withdrawals for a successful detox and recovery.

1. Try Tapering

A popular method for people to stop using opiates is the taper technique. As the name suggests, it involves the person slowly tapering down the amount of opiates he uses. The benefit of this technique is that it causes less severe withdrawal symptoms than if the person simply decided to quit abruptly. However, it requires the mental discipline to keep reducing the amount of opiates used and eventually stopping use entirely.

 Just like a user will develop a tolerance for opiates and keep needing larger doses to get high, that process also works in reverse. If he can cut those doses down gradually, he’ll need less of the drug and his brain chemistry will start getting back to normal. For many, another option is to supplement the detox with Vivitrol. Vivitrol breaks the cycle of opioid addiction by lessening the symptoms of withdrawal.

2. Join a Support Group

One of the hardest parts of withdrawal is going through it alone. They can break a person down mentally and physically. A great way for the person to get support and stay on the right track is finding an addiction support group in his area.

 There are many ways that a support group can help with opiate withdrawal. Other members of the group can provide suggestions on what helped them get through the withdrawal process. Support groups also offer constructive activities, such as boosting self esteem during addiction recovery. These activities are crucial to surviving the withdrawal process and preventing relapse.

 Most importantly, being part of a group lets the person know that he is not alone in his struggle. If he has felt down on himself, a group of people who understand what he’s going through can help him maintain high self esteem.

3. Try Over-the-Counter Medications

Many of the most common symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be reduced by using popular over-the-counter medications. Tylenol and ibuprofen are two options that can help a person deal with the fevers, muscle aches, chills and sweating that come with withdrawal. Keep these medications on hand so that you can take them as needed.

4. Keep Getting Nutrients

Because of the nausea caused by opiate withdrawal, it’s often hard to eat or drink. This can make withdrawal even more difficult due to the lack of nutrients being consumed.

 Stocking up on foods that are easy to eat is a smart move before detoxing. Bananas are one option that tend to go down easy, or the person can purchase meal-replacement shakes. Multivitamins are a great choice for ensuring the person gets all the nutrients he needs even during withdrawals.

5. Set Up a Schedule in Advance

As the withdrawal process is an intense one, it is best to clear your schedule in advance. There are two key points to clearing your schedule during withdrawal.

 First, clear your schedule of any important responsibilities. Besides the fact that the symptoms will prevent you from doing anything at all, anything that you do during withdrawal will likely be of very low quality. If you are working then take time off of work, if possible. Find a safe, quiet, and secluded place in which you can focus on getting through the detox without any added stress.

 Second, is to set up a different daily routine. Routine is a problem when it comes to drug use because people often get used to their drug habits based on their daily routines. Many grow accustomed to using at a specific time of day, such as before bed or after getting home from work. Adjusting that daily routine can help the person avoid specific triggers that make him crave opiates.

 It may not be possible to avoid withdrawal symptoms entirely, but you can at least make them more bearable. With the right approach, you will be able to get and stay clean of opiates, rebuild your life and develop better coping habits to deal with life.

 Bill Weiss is an advocate of long-term sobriety. As a member of the recovery community, he feels it is important to spread awareness of alcohol and drug misuse in America and beyond. Being personally affected and having family members struggling, it is a personal quest of his to get the facts about substance misuse to light, ultimately enlightening people about this epidemic.

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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.

Guest post: Bipolar 2- Wading through depression and loss of motivation by Jessica Flores

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This article is about Bipolar 2 disorder, a mood disorder where sufferers can cycle between high and low moods. Jessica writes about her experiences: 

If you have been diagnosed with Bipolar II, you know that it differs from Bipolar I disorder in that you still cycle between high and low, but you never experience complete mania (high mood), which is good. Instead, you get hypomania (a lesser form). Yet, more often than not, you are trying to cope with long periods of substantial depression; which can be more severe and long lasting . Roughly six million people in the United States  and millions around the world, suffer from some form of bipolar disorder, so you aren’t alone.

When I am hypomanic, I find myself excited to go out and have conversations and stay up all night. I want to make friends and craft furniture and redecorate. I end up buying things online for some new life I plan to begin living. It’s why half of my living room has been filled with boxes of mid-century housewares for the last two years. However, I spend most of my time being depressed.

My life often feels like it is happening underwater. Every action I attempt to take exhausts me. Showering daily is impossible. I sleep for half the day and sit in front of the computer to do my job without the energy to move forward or the cognitive wherewithal to make sentences. I don’t have urges to harm myself, but I wonder why I need to keep feeling this way every day. I lose hope for the future- it can be very difficult.

Lately, I have begun to wonder if I am depressed or if I am simply losing motivation.  I feel sluggish. I don’t feel motivated. My house is a wreck. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned the kitchen floor. I thought about getting a maid service last week, but I didn’t want anyone to see my apartment.  Sometimes I have negative self talk and think I am lazy, not depressed.

As it turns out, I am not alone in my thoughts about this. Many people with clinical depression reach a point where they attach negative descriptors to themselves. If people hear they are lazy often enough during depressive episodes, it’s not unusual for them to question whether or not it’s true.

Mute Everyone Out

A depressed person isn’t simply dealing with a lack of motivation, they deal with changes in their sleep patterns, hopelessness, loss of pleasure in things they used to enjoy, changes in weight and/or appetite, and so much more. All of these are potential symptoms of bipolar depression and they can be treated. There are a number of medications that have proven effective in treating Bipolar II and many forms of therapy that are a critical element of a complete treatment plan.

Regardless, that’s a lot to handle all on your own. And what makes it especially difficult is the fact that it’s all being caused in your own mind.

Which is why it’s time to stop thinking of yourself as unmotivated or lazy, and it’s time to stop listening to anyone around you who does. You have a diagnosed medical condition. You are managing as well as you can in the given circumstances. I know it’s hard, but you’re going to need to learn to tell yourself that that’s all there is and you shouldn’t put yourself down for the resulting actions that you choose to take because of your condition. Instead of feeling ashamed, you need to make sure you are getting all of the treatment that you can and learning skills to help you control what you are able to.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. This is your battle. To make sure that you yourself don’t make yourself feel bad for how you spend most of your days. By being proud of who you are and accepting your condition, you close yourself off from any hurtful comments any uninformed person could ever tell you. And it’s important for you to be able to do that. Because you’re not any of the negative things you just said. You’re amazing, capable, and strong. Remember that.

 

Jessica Flores is a wife, mother, writer, and woman diagnosed with bipolar II. She knows that her disorder affects her entire family and she works to lessen the impact as best she can. However, she also gives herself permission to experience changes in mood. Her drastic experience motivates her to blog about it and help others who are experiencing trying times.

Shame and Psychosis article for Time to Change

My latest article for Time to Change, a campaign in the UK aiming to end mental health discrimination. (name has been changed)

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Three years ago last month, my mind lost touch with reality in a very rapid turn of events that culminated in an acute manic episode of bipolar affective disorder. Having been diagnosed with bipolar in 2004, I had not experienced any mania or hypomania (a lesser manic state) in ten years, although I had fallen into a suicidal depression just six months earlier. So when my brain fell into full blown psychosis – with delusions and grandiose thoughts, fearful thoughts about loved ones and being in danger and a complete change in rational perception – it ripped apart the fabric of my life and all I knew. I am writing this to explain what psychosis is really like.

I was just 25 and although I had experienced a mixed state which left me hospitalised at 16 (and had experienced some psychosis then), this was by far the most challenging, lengthy and painful bout of mania and psychosis that I had experienced. I began to believe that my step father was behind why I was in hospital and wouldn‘t let him see me, I thought that the doctors and nurses were a gang holding me hostage. I was fearful of everything, talking and singing to myself, unable to sit still and became quite agitated at times with the staff and patients, which is completely out of character for me. I simply didn’t know what was real or unreal and I was so frightened of the staff and others while my brain was in this state. Eventually, I recovered after about two months of being given anti-psychotic medication and tranquilisers to help me rest (often I was pacing around due to agitation/ mania), in combination with individual and group therapies. I left hospital after three months.

I rarely talk about my psychotic state, which led me to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This is due to shame: I was ashamed of myself even though it wasn’t my fault – rather down to faulty brain chemistry and my medication that had stopped working. There is still a huge amount of stigma about psychosis and anything that makes you lose your sanity. My psychosis is part of my bipolar illness and happened completely out of the blue. My mood stabiliser hadn’t been holding me for some time but no one could have predicted quite how rapid my descent into psychosis and illness could have been (it took only a number of days and escalated at a weekend, leaving me to be admitted via A&E, which proved traumatising).

The shame of losing your mind is great and also acting out of character shatters your self-esteem. When I left hospital, I sunk into a depression due to the shame of how I acted in hospital and how my brain and its chemistry could go so catastrophically wrong. Kindness goes a long way when you are feeling ashamed. If you have a friend or family member struggling with this – be calm, show kindness, and show up for them. They need your support at what is an incredibly painful time. Let the person with feelings of shame about their illness know that they are human, that they are an important friend to you, and stand by them.

What truly helped me in those dark days was the attitude of my psychiatrist in hospital and in the day recovery unit I attended after. Despite being psychotic and unwell in hospital and quite agitated at times, my doctor persevered to get me on the right medication and put up with my changing moods. She knew that if I took anti-psychotics and then agreed to go on lithium carbonate (the main mood stabilising medication for bipolar disorder) that I would recover – even if it took me months to get there. It was a slow recovery but I got there in time. Her patience, perseverance and kindness saved me from a very acute episode of illness. Similarly, the psychiatrist and all the staff at the Day Recovery Unit helped me in my down days starting on lithium and having regular blood tests, recovering from being very unwell and they treated me like a human being, when I had felt so ashamed.

If it wasn’t for the Doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and other staff who looked after me  and helped build me back up, I wouldn’t be here today.

There is no need to feel ashamed, although you may do.

Although I still find it hard to talk about my descent into a psychotic state – I am so grateful to the NHS for all the help I was given and have been well for some time. I hope this article helps others in a similar position – you are not alone and don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/there-should-be-no-shame-experiencing-psychosis

The Power of Meditation: Guest Post by Jimmy Vick

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Meditation is one of the most preferred activities for all, regardless of gender, age or other factors. People have different opinions about meditation and many consider meditation to be similar to prayer. For others, it is an activity that is meant for relaxation and getting away from their daily hectic lives. In general, meditation is the activity of turning your complete concentration to a single point, concentrating on the breath, on bodily feelings, or on a mantra and affirmation. Meditation is about diverting your thoughts and concentrating on the present.

The main goal of meditation is to achieve an inner state of awareness and strengthen personal and spiritual development. In practice, meditation consists of intense concentration on  sounds, images or emotions. Meditation increases awareness of the present moment, lessens stress, encourages relaxation, and improves personal and spiritual development. The various religious and non religious traditions in the world have given rise to an array of meditative practices. The power and benefits of meditation are many.

Here are some of the notable benefits and the power of meditation:

Healing Power

Meditation promotes healing. People who meditate daily can heal many of their illnesses. In meditation, healing takes place because the mind of the person will be calm, alert and completely contented. Meditation  can be very powerful. To accomplish an ideal state of health, one has to be mentally tranquil which can be attained via meditation. Meditation can  assist and promote recovery from ailments from many chronic health issues.

 

No Side Effects

Meditation, when used for treating medical complications, has no side effects. It is the main reason why many people enjoy practising it. It is an activity that people regardless of age and gender can follow. Since meditation does not have any negative side effects, it is suitable and safe alongside medical treatment.

Relaxation

One of the main reasons why most of the people follow meditation in their daily life is for relaxation. We live in a chaotic world where everything is moving very fast. People are really tired and need relaxation in order to get away from their chaotic world. Meditation is a perfect way to assist relaxation in ones daily life. It helps you to stop moving around, working, thinking, talking, seeing, hearing, etc and allow you to rest. Meditation can help you create a cool and calm mind and therefore aids relaxation.

Improve Concentration

If you would like to improve your concentration, meditation can help. Meditation is all about sitting in a calm place and focusing on only one thing at a time. Meditation lets you focus intensely on your daily life. It is a perfect means for you to get away from distractions and direct your attention to what you need to focus on.

Other Benefits of Meditation                                           

  • The relaxation response that you get from meditation allows you to reduce metabolism, lessen blood pressure, and get better heart rate, breathing, and brain function.
  • Meditation gives balance to your overall bodily systems.
  • Meditation is very helpful and can assist us to feel happier.
  • Meditation is a practice that assists us to control our own mind and as a result, our own life and find out more about ourselves.
  • Meditation can aid us to get rid of negative thoughts, worries, nervousness, and everything that can stop us from feeling happy.
  • Meditation can provide us with a calm mind and it gives time free from stress and tension.
  • Meditation is a good method to give clarity of perception. It aids to reduce feelings of negative mood, tension, sadness, and anger.
  • Improvements in communication, flourishing of skills and talents, a powerful inner strength, etc can be achievable through meditation.
  • Meditation offers the capability to unite to an inner source of energy and enhances ones self-awareness.
  • Relaxation, transformation, and quality of life are all natural results of meditating frequently. It helps you promote inner peace and feel more alive.

 

Author Bio

I’m Jimmy Vick.  I have been working as a freelance writer  At present, I work for a best essay writing service online and it allows me to deal with different subjects in which I am an expert. I love writing articles for blogs and other online publications.

9 Proven Ways to Help Build Mindfulness and Meditation: Guest post by Jay Pignatiello

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This article is about ways to build Mindfulness for a happy and healthier life, by Jay Pigantiello.

At the age of 25, I began to feel the inevitable tides of change turn as they do, dimming the spark of youth I had grown quite accustomed to and cloaked myself with. I had hardly thought of a future to this point, but the reality finally hit me; the truth of which became a monster of sorts, leading me into a dark period of depression that followed. It wasn’t that I lacked confidence as much as it was simply that I hadn’t the slightest clue of what I wished to do for the rest of my life. The “rest of my life,” seemed daunting. I’m not sure to this day that there’s anything I would like to do for the “rest of my life.” But, through the suggestion of a friend turned mentor, I began to accept these feelings rather than trying to flee from them.

Meditation is an incredible tool. I was under the delusion that in order to be more mindful about things, I had to sit like a guru for two hours a day and eat nothing but kale and lentils. This couldn’t have been further from the truth, as it was suggested to start slow in the beginning. Each morning, for five minutes I would sit up in my bed and allow myself to be present. The coldness of the other pillow, the silky sensation of my sheets, and the warmth of the sunshine creeping over the hills began to be my anchors. Instead of fretting over what I needed to do that day, I allowed myself to be present upon waking. Most people are in such a rush that in the haze of their haste they actually make more mistakes and are less productive than if they were to take a few minutes to let their minds stay still.

Here are 9 proven and effective ways to help yourself become more mindful, and hopefully lead to a meditation practice:

 

  • Allow yourself to feel the feelings. It’s amazing how easily your mind can switch from negative thinking to more positive thinking when you stop fighting what you’re feeling. Humans are supposed to feel other emotions than happy or contentment. Feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling depressed are actually positive experiences because they allow an insight into what needs to be changed.

 

  • Listen to your negative thoughts, and try to translate them. Many times when I’m depressed, I’ll start to see through a lens of darkness over everything in my reality, when the truth is that I’m unhappy because she didn’t text me back, or he didn’t tell me that I did a good job at work today. If I can translate these feelings of sadness into thoughts, I can allow them to pass or I can begin to make the proper changes that are necessary for me to grow.

 

  • Practice makes perfect. For me, there are times where I’ll pick up my guitar after having not played for a while and immediately dismiss myself as awful if I’m not as sharp as I once was. I forget how many hours went into practicing in order for me to reach a point where I was confident in my abilities. When I carry this mindset into other areas of my life, it allows me to accept where I’m at in my skillset and encourages me to practice a little harder. It also allows me to see my strengths and my weaknesses.

 

  • Strengths and weaknesses. This might not help me to become more mindful, but it’s made me a more confident person. In recovery from addiction, I’ve always been careful not to mention it to employers because I’ve thought of it as a weakness. The same could be said for my depression or anything else I suffer from. It wasn’t until I embraced the struggles I had gone through as a strength that I truly started to flourish in all areas of my life. In fact, most people didn’t see it as a weakness, and I’ve gotten several jobs simply because I’m reliable and trustworthy.

 

  • Pick one positive thing you experienced in your day and take time to appreciate it. Whether it’s the fact that your boss bought you coffee, or someone smiled at you, find one moment throughout the day and choose to be present for it. Gratitude is a powerful anti-depressant, and also helps to build mindfulness.

 

  • Pick one negative or uncomfortable experience in your day and take time to appreciate it. There’s a saying that goes something like, “you’ll never know a good day until you’ve had a bad one.” Negative experiences don’t need to define your entire day, but allowing yourself to feel it and be present without resistance can help you to see how many positive experiences there actually are. Discomfort is a catalyst for confidence.

 

  • Choose a mantra. Mantras can be powerful anchors, helping us to meditate while not traditionally meditating. Sometimes when I’m waiting in line I like to recite, “go with the flow,” which is from a song I like, as well as an appropriate mantra for me to live by. Often times I can be controlling, and so by reciting these words I remind myself that I’m not the most important person in the room, and everyone else had to wait in the same line. Your mantra can be whatever you choose, so find one that works for you.

 

  • Sit with your eyes closed. Sitting with your eyes closed in a more traditional form can truly help you to be more present throughout the rest of your day. Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool to help us to achieve mindfulness, as well as spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical growth. When we allow ourselves to sit without judgement of our thoughts, letting them come and go freely without narrating the story of each, we’re allowing our minds to become tranquil; which in today’s day and age of computers and billboard ads, is a must.

 

  • There’s only one Buddha. I like this saying, because I’m sometimes harsh on myself if I can’t sit for as long as I hoped for. Sitting for five minutes, and gradually building yourself up to sit for longer can help you to form a regular practice. There’s only one Buddha, and so there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, nor is there a right or wrong amount of time to meditate for. Be gentle on yourself, and acknowledge each day when you meditate that you’re taking time to do something positive and helpful for yourself.

 

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, as well as recovering from various addictions. Meditation and mindfulness helped me to change my perspective, which in turn actually helped me to become a more hopeful and positive person. These 9 steps are proven to help you not only become more mindful, but to feel better about yourself and the world around you. We’re all in this life together, and I choose to be a more positive person for the world around me.

 

Jay is a writer and works with Crown View Co-Occurring Institute, a rehab for depression and other co-occurring disorders. He enjoys walking his two dogs, playing music, and being a figure in the recovery community in his freetime.

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.