My story of recovery from Alcoholism and Mental illness: Guest blog by Allen

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(image: https://www.rehab-recovery.co.uk)

My name is Allen and this is my recovery journey from alcoholism and mental illness.

On 12th October 2005 I had my last drink of alcohol and the following morning I was admitted to a psychiatric unit.  On reflection I didn’t know what was happening and had no clue what was happening emotionally, physically or mentally just that I was going into hospital for a short stay to get better.

Better from what? Whats happening to me? When can I go home? It was like a constant conversation in my head and I couldn’t turn it off.  Little did I know that I had been admitted because I was a risk to myself and others and I was going to be detoxed from alcohol and drugs.

I was never the world’s greatest drinker but I loved everything about alcohol and now know that since my teenage years,  alcohol was a constant in my life at home, in pubs, on the train to work, in the park, in the toilet, in secret or in the open and it had been that way since teenage life.

So I stayed in that psychiatric unit for 6 ½ months and I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 (a mood disorder) and prescribed medication to deal with that.  Since that time, I have experienced two courses of electro convulsive therapy, Cognitive behavioural therapy, one to one counselling, 12 step programmes for drugs and alcohol,  taken anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and  read numerous self help books.

This week I will reach 13 years of sobriety- a great achievement considering I couldn’t go a day without alcohol. However,  2018 has seen me admitted into another psychiatric unit, following numerous suicide attempts and thoughts.

I received an additional diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and a dawning realisation that I need to go way back to my early years to start to really understand me. Childhood / teenage trauma, bullying, substance and alcohol misuse, relationship problems, low self-esteem and lack of confidence, financial woes and debts mounted up.

The past 13 years have enabled me with the help of a twelve step programme to manage life, be as good a father as possible, to be a son, brother and uncle, and a friend.

I have been able to hold down a job and  study a degree in Psychology and Counselling,. I became a Mental health first aider and I suppose now I need to look at me and listen to others as to how I can manage my mental health and addiction. I can learn to be the best father I can be to my son and daughter, and focus on what I need to do to alter the cycle of mental illness that has plagued me for so long.  

Long term therapy seems to be the best option and I hopefully begin this process with an assessment very soon. I am so proud to be miles away from where I was in early 2018. Then, I asked a member of the Home Treatment Team (for crisis care) if I could go into hospital. I also shared for the first time that I have heard a voice for most of my life and the voice has made me harm myself.

I am now doing so much better and hope that therapy helps me to heal even more.

Allen is a writer, mental health first aider and mental health worker.

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Lifestyle Changes: How to Combat your Eating Disorder: Guest Post by Lizzie Weakley

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Recognising you have an eating disorder is one of the biggest (and hardest) steps you can take to combat your disorder. It’s important to make sure you know how to combat the disorder so you don’t find yourself fighting a losing battle.

Don’t Expect Huge Changes

Just the idea of helping yourself get better from an eating disorder is important, but it won’t bring about the change you really need. You won’t get to see the results of the change until you start making changes. Be prepared for things to stay the same for a long time after you start trying to fight this battle.

Seek Professional Help

It’s almost always necessary to get professional help with eating disorders. There are many eating disorder center options you can choose from that have intensive processes. These centers can make things easier for you and can give you the specific tools you need to start getting better.

Try Something New

Not all eating disorders are the same. There may be differences from person to person so it’s important to keep that in mind when you start this battle. Your eating disorder probably won’t be like anyone else’s battle. Just like you are a unique person, the way you handle your eating disorder will be unique. You can try different things and new techniques to try and help yourself through the eating disorder. Things may change, but it’s important to keep trying new things that might help you.

Recognize Your Struggle

The struggle to combat an eating disorder can be one of the hardest things you do. You should recognize that struggle and work with it to help yourself. If you know it will be difficult to overcome the eating disorder, you’ll be better prepared to fight it when you’re dealing with issues that come from eating disorders.

Continue Fighting

Fighting an eating disorder is a battle you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life. Even when things do get easier for you, you might still struggle with the issues that come from the eating disorder. Keep that in mind before you start the process. It’s a good idea to know that you’ll be in this fight for the rest of your life, but it does get easier.

Eating disorders are hard. Trying to figure out how to combat one on your own can be even harder. It’s important to know what to expect and take the steps necessary to help yourself get better.

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her Husky, Snowball, camping, and binging on Netflix.

Twitter: @LizzieWeakley

Facebook: facebook.com/lizzie.weakley

 

 

On Complex PTSD and my recovery: Guest post by Lydia for World Mental Health Day

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Hi there, I’m Lydia a 20-year-old youtuber and film maker, I’ve been battling my mental health conditions for a little over five years. This article is about C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and how I’ve found recovery, but first, what is C-PTSD?

C-PTSD, is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder that stems from repetitive exposure to a traumatic experience, it is also commonly diagnosed alongside BPD (borderline personality disorder), I was diagnosed with C-PTSD around 3 years ago after witnessing a suicide and multiple suicide attempts, without going into too much detail it was really hard, and has taken me until this year (2018) to even begin to process what happened.

So, let’s talk about recovery, there a massive misconception that it isn’t possible to recover from any type of PTSD, however it totally is possible to  find recovery. My recovery really got started this year when I made the decision to privately access EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which was without question the most beneficial type of therapy I’ve tried.

Following this there was a major incident in which my mental stability declined rapidly I was subsequently detained in a psychiatric hospital for a little under a month, following my release, I decided to take control of my mental health and help myself.

The first thing I did to help myself was cut off from everybody negative, which I realised I had to do, because I really was at a point where I could have reached crisis point if things didn’t change. I moved from one end of the country to the other, I blocked everybody’s number, Facebook and Twitter, it was a drastic move but so important and to anybody who struggling with their mental health I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing this, just cut yourself off from everybody negative, you don’t have to justify it, your health and welfare should be the most important thing in your life.

The next thing I did was go to my GP and re-start my medication. Sometimes you just need an extra push, psychiatric medication can’t change your life circumstances, but it can help you heal. This was a pretty big decision but it was one I needed to make.

The final thing I did was to take a break and find a hobby.  I went on holiday with my family, I started creating more positive content on YouTube while also documenting my recovery which has been one of the most helpful things I’ve done/ This is because I’m a part of a really supportive community on YouTube, and just reading comments like “you gave me hope” means so much.

The big move I made this year was to write and release my own book on the journey I’ve been on, and I wouldn’t change it because it’s made me who I am today.

After a few years of complete hell, I’ve turned my life around and I’m certainly in a much more positive place, things change and life changes for the better. My overall message for you all would be to never lose hope, just hold on because if you put in the time and work things will change, however don’t expect people to change things for you. Hold on and find recovery.

 

Lydia is a youtuber and film maker, talking about her mental health. You can see her channels here:

www.youtube.com/lydiisadinosaur

www.twitter.com/Lifewithlydia

 

How Physio/ Physical Therapy can help you manage Stress and Anxiety: Guest post by Ashley Smith

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(image: www.physiquemassagetherapy.com)

Stress and anxiety, which can lead to a large number of health problems, are common among people of all ages. The first step toward managing these problems is to change your attitude toward them. Most people think that these are common problems, so they do not pay much attention when it comes to managing them.

However, if you talk about long-term stress, it increases the risk of health conditions like obesity, memory impairment, trouble sleeping, autoimmune diseases, heart problems, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke, etc., so it’s essential to seek quality treatment to deal with them.

You can feel stressed due to several reasons including tough competition in the workplace, family problems, relationship issues, divorce, financial problems, and tiredness, etc. And if you fail to deal with it, you can face further complications.

 

Here are The Symptoms of Stress

-Mood swings and getting frustrated

-Difficulty in controlling your emotions

-The feeling of loneliness and low self-esteem

-Reduced energy levels

-Suffering from conditions like headaches, muscle tension, and chest pain

-Stomach problems like constipation or diarrhea

-Dry mouth and grinding teeth

-Difficulty focusing on your task

Experiencing negative thoughts

Loss of interest in the activities you used to love the most

Facing problem in relaxing and stabilizing your mood

 

A Brief Description of Anxiety

Anxiety, which is experienced by everyone at some point in their lives, can lead to a variety of other problems. When your anxiety progresses into an anxiety disorder, which is a mental health condition, it becomes harder to recover from it. Therefore, seeking quality treatment at the right time remains the only solution for you.

 

Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

-Avoiding situations, places, and things linked to a horrific event

-Experiencing problems in concentrating at work

-Losing interest in the activities of daily living

-Sleep problems and difficulty in staying calm

-Cold and sweaty hands and feet

-Increased heart rate and feeling nervousness

-Dry mouth and tense muscles

 

So, if you are someone who is living with high-level of stress and anxiety, it’s necessary that you seek proper treatment. Experts believe that physical (physio) therapy is the best way to manage stress and anxiety.

It’s a drug-free treatment for stress and anxiety; therefore, anyone can seek it. It means whether you are an adult above 40 or a 15-year old child if you are struggling with any of these problems, physical (physio) therapy could be a suitable treatment.

 

Here’s how a physical/ physio therapist helps you recover from stress and anxiety.

The best part of consulting a physical/ physio therapist is that they devote their time and resources to identify the underlying cause of your problem so that they can address it with the right therapy techniques.

For figuring out the actual cause of your stress and anxiety, they check your medical history and symptoms. Besides, they may also ask a variety of questions linked to your daily routine to arrive at a reliable diagnosis.

The kind of techniques that physical therapists use show a quick result when it comes to managing stress and anxiety.

For example, if you are experiencing stress due to work pressure or tight deadlines, then they will create a treatment plan that will consist of exercises that promote relaxation.

Massage therapy or therapeutic massage is one of the most effective treatments for relieving stress and anxiety. It not only helps in reducing stress and anxiety, but also improves circulation and lymphatic drainage, boosts mood, cures pain, minimizes inflammation and swelling, and accelerates the healing process.

Physical/ physio therapists use different types of massage therapy techniques such as pressure point massage, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and functional message to address individual problems.

According to Excel Sports & Physical Therapy, “Swedish massage is more gentle and targets more superficial tissues, perfect for anyone looking to relax and relieve mental as well as physical stress.

Your therapist may use a variety of aromatic oils while administering therapeutic massage to promote relaxation.

Apart from massage therapy, your physical therapist may also use manual therapy to address the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety.

A unique form of hands-on treatment, manual therapy helps in enhancing the ability of your body parts to function effectively. When your body parts work in harmony with each other, you naturally feel relaxed. While administering this technique, physical (physio) therapists apply pressure on your body through their hands, which feels quite relaxing.

It’s not only used by physical/ physio therapists but also by massage therapists, athletic trainers, and chiropractors, etc., to heal people struggling with pain, discomfort, stress, and anxiety.

So whether you are struggling with stress and anxiety or conditions like the neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain, etc., this therapy can bring a world of difference in your health.

This article was written by Ashley Smith, expert in this area of therapy.

Why you can overcome mental health challenges and anxiety to succeed in life: Guest post by James Kenneth

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(image: OMG Quotes)

Hi, I’m James. I’m 25. I’m a regular person just like you.

I suffer from clinical anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I’ll take you on a journey through my life experience and perhaps this, in turn, will help you on your life path.

As a child, I was rather timid – not the most sociable. I spent a lot of my time reading (which I still do). And, I was rather anxious too.

Every week, several times a week, I would wet my underwear at school because I was scared to tell the teacher that I needed the toilet. Every week without fail, several times a week, I would wet the bed at night because I was afraid to go to the toilet by myself in the night-time. All this wetting myself only stopped when I reached the age of 11, and boy was that a relief. Not just for me, but for my Mum as well – the laundry pile reduced massively.

By the time I went to secondary school, it was clear that something really wasn’t right. I wasn’t making friends, and I just felt downright awful.

My Mum, to whom I am eternally grateful, decided to put me in talking therapy. And it helped. I actually ended up being in therapy, on and off, for ten years. I’ll talk more about my experience with therapy a bit later.

At aged 14, I had a major positive breakthrough. I was on a school trip with 30 other teens. We were outside the country, in a totally different environment, away from home.

At first, I was how I’d always been – shy, worried, quiet. But then something big happened. I opened my mouth. Not only that, but people liked what I had to say. People found me fun and humorous, and  liked me. That gave me a major confidence boost. It was one of the biggest turning points in my life.

It’s all because I was determined to change, to grow. I, of my own volition, opened my mouth, took a leap, and overcame a big emotional obstacle.It wasn’t easy but it was needed.

When I was 19, I moved to a different country. Was I ready to? I was still an emotional wreck to be honest. Much more mentally healthy than I had been at age 11, but an emotional wreck nonetheless. But, thank G-d, really big positive transformation began from this point on.

The main reason – because I am, and always have been, 100% determined to totally manage and overcome my anxiety and I know I will. I was ready to make big changes.

With G-d’s grace, I searched for and acquired some fabulous mentors to help me. They aided me to deepen my self-awareness and hence overcome more emotional obstacles. It is known that awareness is often the first step towards change.

At age 21, I decided it would be a good idea to see a doctor. I was prescibed with Venlafaxine. It took 6 weeks to kick in and then wow – life changed dramatically. I was still James Kenneth, but I was calmer, more content, and level-headed. I’m not saying the medicine totally removed the anxiety, but it helped – big time.

While on the Venlafaxine, since I had a calmer mind, I was able to work even more on overcoming my emotional obstacles. And I did. I was on that medicine for a total of three years and it worked me wonders. And then I came off it when I no longer needed it.

Let’s talk more about my therapy. As the many years of therapy went by, I spoke out what was on my mind and I became increasingly self-aware. With the new self-awareness I had and the support, I was able to gradually change my way of thinking to a healthier one.

It’s funny, the reason I actually stopped therapy after 10 years of it, was because I now understood myself and what I had to work on, far better than the therapist did. It definitely gave me more insight.

Another thing that’s help me in more recent years is reading self-help books. Some of these books have really helped me on my journey of growth. I very much recommend. “The Road Less Travelled” by Dr. Scott Peck, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” co-written by Richard Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I recommend having a browse online and finding out more. I think they’re great!

To end, I’d like to tell you how things are now, in my current life situation. Not only am I no longer an emotional wreck – I’m a happy, self-aware individual who lives a great life. I’ve been happily married now for a year and a half. I’m not saying I no longer have any anxiety. I do. But I’m not the same person I was at age 11.

Heck, I’m not the same person I was even one year ago.

Every year I’m making leaps and bounds in managing my mental illness because I am determined to overcome it and live my best life. I believe that you can get better to, just reach out for help from others- be it medical teams, mentors, doctors or counsellors . With this help, we can recover and it is ESSENTIAL to reach for help and practise self care, kindness and compassion.

James Kenneth is a writer who has had  clinical anxiety and writes on self help. 

Extract from my latest Metro.co.uk article: 6 people share their experiences of friendship during Mental Illness

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(image: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I have bipolar disorder and four years ago I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode.

Without the love, kindness and support of my friends, I definitely would not have recovered as well.

Their support reminds me I am not alone and helps me to feel loved and safe. But mental ill health can be frightening for those who do not understand it, and sometimes friendships can be lost when one person experiences a mental health condition.

Some people may find it hard to cope with symptoms of a friend’s illness and, as such, cut ties or back away.

Jessica Valentine, psychologist at the Brighton Wellness Centre spoke to Metro.co.uk. She says: ‘Sometimes having a friend with a mental health illness can be draining. ‘On the other hand, it’s good to experience the journey of mental health; the ups and the downs, from a personal level. ‘You really get to ‘feel’ your friend come out of the depression. And, it somewhat makes you feel that you are living it too, side by side, helping them.’

The Mental Health Foundation explains that friendship can ‘play a key role in helping someone live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it.

It advises that many people who manage to hold onto friendships while experiencing a mental health condition can see those friendships become stronger as a result.

I wanted to see the role of friendships in other peoples’ lives, either when they were coping with a mental health condition, or when they had witnessed a friend in crisis.

Here six people explain their experiences:

Read their experiences and rest of article: http://metro.co.uk/2018/03/01/6-people-share-their-experiences-of-friendship-during-mental-illness-7343290/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Why Wait: Eating Disorder Awareness Week and My story with Anorexia: Guest post by Hannah Brown

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(image: rebloggy)

Please read with care: Trigger Warning: Eating disorder Discussion

As Eating Disorder awareness week progresses, it has really got me thinking about my own journey and the symptoms that I experienced as part of my anorexia.

The hashtag #WhyWait is being used this week as we all come to terms with the fact that according to Beat 34% of UK adults cannot name a symptom of an eating disorder, and that even more shockingly sufferers wait 3 years before seeking any sort of treatment.

Aged 19,I started the diet that I thought would give me a wealth of happiness, how wrong I was. What I also started was my gradual decline into anorexia. There were warning signs, there were behaviours that were obsessive and out of control, my physical appearance was changing, becoming weaker and I was almost translucent in colour-  but most strikingly was the change to my personality.

Extreme calorie restriction causes a massive reduction in personal motivation and general apathy. Studies have shown how thoughts become obsessed on food and their behaviours around meals soon turns slightly absurd.

This was absolutely my experience, it crept up on me scarily, without warning. As my diet became more and more refined, my thoughts were turning more and more to food, how I could further restrict, avoid the meal time or alter plans in order to exercise more.

There were so many signs, so many warning lights that for some reason I chose to ignore. I brushed them under the carpet, and kept up with the pretence of “I’m fine”.

Ignoring the issue, or refusal to acknowledge that a problem was developing was a symptom of my perfectionism and the denial that I was experiencing was concurrent with my theme of being the strong one, both within my peer groups and within my family unit.

But why was I waiting, what was I waiting for?

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(image: Rebloggy)

What I didn’t realise was that by waiting to act on my symptoms with any sort of conviction and determination, I was simply prolonging the agony that I would face in the initial stages of my recovery, making those first few months even more difficult. As the behaviours became more entrenched, they became habitual in nature. Personality traits that were once alien and unrecognisable soon become my identity.

There came a time, that I decided to reach out to my GP and unfortunately I didn’t quite get the support that I thought I was going to- whilst I wasn’t turned away, my weight certainly wasn’t critical enough to cause any sort of concern from the medical profession and the advise was to add a dessert into my meal plan, perhaps the occasional spread of butter.

In hindsight, perhaps if I had listened to this very basic advice I wouldn’t have gone on to lose more weight. However, there was no attention given to the mental battles that I was starting to have with my intuition and my fear of food- or the the fear of losing control over it.

Visiting my GP had taken a great deal of courage, as I said I’m always the one that is simply fine, is there for everyone else, often at the expense of myself. To get this quite flippant advice left me feeling slightly desensitised. I left wth their advice- put it in a box and chose to ignore it, my mental health not addressed.

But I don’t want my experience to stop you, or your loved ones reaching out to your GP, because for many they can be the most valuable resource available. Go in, if you can with a loved one and don’t leave that room until you have been given care that you totally deserve.

Alternatively use the Beat help finder page to find that source of support that will be right for you, grab it and don’t let go.

It is OK not to be OK, it is OK to struggle, and it is OK to ask for help. The term “admitting” has slightly negative connotations, like we are owning up to something, a crime. But please, please do not think of it like this. You wouldn’t ever wait after discovering a lump, or if feeling constantly unwell- the same should be said for your mental health.

My journey continued and things didn’t get better until they had got much much worse. I ended up in hospital, but even then I was naive at just how unwell I had become. Hospital was an experience that I will never forget, it was difficult and lonely but undoubtedly it did save my life.

I know, deep down though, that it could have been avoided, I could have saved myself and prevented all the heartache that I endured as part of my recovery.

In reading this, please ask yourself the question: Why Wait?

And take it from me, i might not know you, but you absolutely deserve to receive support and help.

You’re not weak but wholesome and rich, go to my website https://aneartohear.co.uk/- because you deserve to be heard. We can help you.

Recovery from Bipolar and Achieving despite the odds: Sam

Sam shares her incredible story of living with bipolar disorder and how she recovered and now helps others as a student mental health nurse. As a student, Sam has worked on a child and adolescent unit, has volunteered for Mind with a theatre project for people with mental health issues and shares her amazing story with us here.

Trigger Warning: Piece speaks about self harm and suicide, please read with care.

 

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(image: bphope.com)

I started to experience anxiety at the age of 10. I remember feeling extremely overwhelmed at the thought of moving to secondary school and although I was very bright in other areas, I struggled with maths and this often reduced me to tears. At the age of 11, I started to struggle to fit in with my peers and became increasingly socially anxious. By the age of 13, I began to experience severe emotional bullying within my school. I had many friends and I was a talented dancer but the effects of the bullying eventually led to feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. I wish I had had the confidence to speak to my parents about the bullying at the time but I felt ashamed and ultimately believed that there was something wrong with me as a person.

Additionally, I was a high achiever in a high achieving school, in a good area, so I felt the pressure of  these expectations. I had big expectations of myself too, which added to my stress and made life difficult. As I turned 14, I had already had three episodes of what I now know to be depression. I would go for weeks without eating and felt physically unable to speak. I would spend hours in bed and did not feel able to attend school. One day, I decided that I could not cope any longer, I felt suicidal and alone, taking an overdose. My parents took me to hospital and I later saw a psychiatrist at the child and adolescent mental health outpatient’s facility.

The attempt on my life made me feel really ashamed but I did not know why I felt that way and had those thoughts. I couldn’t explain everything to the doctor. I continued to have periods of depression and at age 15, I experienced my first manic episode following a break up with my boyfriend and a significant life trauma. I also had my first episode of psychosis (when your mind loses touch with reality) following this. I was taken into hospital and then sent to a psychiatric unit. Here I received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (type 1) and was prescribed Lithium to stabilise my mood and anti-psychotics to treat the mania and psychosis. I found this diagnosis really difficult to accept but I was relieved to finally know why I had felt the way I did- and what was causing the depression and mania. It would have been very helpful to have someone tell me at this point that recovery is possible. It is possible to have a fulfilling life despite my condition, but I didn’t know it then.

I returned to school for my last year and I had to drop one of my GCSE subjects to catch up on the work that I had missed. I felt ashamed of my situation- I found school and socialising really hard and because of the greater stigma that was attached to mental health back then, many of my school peers were not very understanding or supportive. I failed most of my exams and felt like a failure. I had aspirations to go to university but due to my grades this was not possible so I had to do an NVQ instead.

I decided to study counselling as my experiences had given me an interest in this area. Unfortunately, I found life with my new diagnosis increasingly difficult and fell into the wrong crowd and turned to substances, alcohol and self-harm as a way of coping. I did not take my medication as prescribed- so consequently had another manic episode at age 17. I became so unwell that I was sent to a psychiatric hospital out of area and sectioned under the mental health act. Here I had high doses of rapid tranquilisation to treat my mania and psychosis.

I recovered from this episode and went back to work. At 18, I was working in a call centre and moved out of home into a shared house. I spent large amounts of money maxing out credit cards. I began to sleep around and had unhealthy relationships, putting myself in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, the people I moved in with were also using substances and this exacerbated my mental health symptoms further. I moved onto using harder drugs. I really didn’t care about myself and felt like my life was over before it had begun- I felt like I had nothing to live for. I started to harm myself again – culminating in an overdose. Then, I was admitted to an adult psychiatric unit on a section 3 (a longer hold in hospital).

By the age of 23, I had had several admissions into this hospital and had also lived in supported accommodation. I had many traumatic experiences in hospital as some of the care I received was not positive. Each episode of mania followed an episode of depression.

At 24, I met a boyfriend who did not use substances and he also had had his own mental health experiences, I fell pregnant and we decided to keep the baby. I then stopped taking substances and began to take care of myself for the first time as I realised my actions would now not only affect my life but another’s too. This was a big turning point in my life. I had a baby girl and came off all my medication. I had an emergency caesarean which was traumatic and I tried to breast feed which was unsuccessful.

However, being a mother with bipolar has its own challenges. I became very low after the birth and had an episode of postpartum psychosis, where you can suffer from delusions and/ or hallucinations. I had to spend time in a psychiatric unit for three months to be cared for and to get well again. Fortunately, my family took care of my daughter during this time. I recovered from this episode and my daughter, my boyfriend and I moved into a two bedroomed flat to make a fresh start.

I had some difficult news that year that spurred me in in my recovery and to make positive change for those of us with bipolar and mental health issues. My close friend that I met whilst living in supportive housing, who also had bipolar disorder, passed away from suicide. This inspired me to then start volunteer work within the mental health services and try to use my own experiences to help other people. My support worker at the time put me in contact with MIND and a local theatre group.

At the theatre group, I met many people who became a positive influence on my life. I started a course in mental health at college in the evenings and helped run the hearing voices group at MIND. I also volunteered in secondary schools educating young people about mental health, the effects of bullying and substance misuse. I also took A level psychology at evening school and completed a year’s social science course at university. My mental health improved and so had my self-esteem and confidence. I finally had purpose in my life as a mum and volunteer with positive friends and family around me. I also had a stable prescribing routine of medicaion- Sodium Valproate,  to help keep my moods stable and no longer going between depression and mania.

This spurred me on to apply for a job on the National Health Service (UK) Nursing bank as a Nursing assistant. I worked in different mental health settings including the hospital that I spent time in as a patient. This felt awkward at first but a Nursing assistant who had cared for me in the past took me under her wing. I really enjoyed the work and realised that this was the career for me as I loved working with people and helping them through their distress. When my daughter started pre-school I applied for a permanent job in one of the hospitals that I did agency shifts in.

That year, my boyfriend and I got married. After working in low secure unit, I moved on to working in a recovery unit and eventually applied for a job in a child and adolescent unit. I continued to have an interest in performance arts and my friend told me about a local theatre project which aimed to challenge stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. This seemed to be right up my street so I volunteered! We devised two plays during the time that I worked with them. I enjoyed acting and spending time with others that had experience of mental health. We also wrote a book with stories and poems related to mental health which was later published. It felt great to be back challenging stigma and using the arts as a way of doing this.

I spent five years working at the child and adolescent unit and really enjoyed working in early intervention with young people. I had my son during this time and although I had another caesarean and a low period post natal, the overall experience was much more positive as I had stability and a good insight into my mental health.

As my son grew up, I decided to start my access to nursing and maths GCSE at evening school. It was hard to look after two children, work and attend college but I passed and gained a place on the mental health nursing degree at University. My manager also advised me to apply for the nursing scholarship and I was successful. My trust is paying for my training and I will have a job as a mental health nurse on qualifying.

15 years ago,  I really didn’t think I would be where I am in my life today. It really does show that with the right support, lifestyle and for some, medication that recovery is possible. Remember your diagnosis is just one small part of you it doesn’t define you and unlike some people in society mental illness does not discriminate – it could happen to anyone of us.

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.

Guest Post: Hope Virgos amazing story about Anorexia and reaching recovery.

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You are fat’

‘you are worthless’

‘No one really cares…’

‘You can’t possibly be going to eat that…’

…     I am not entirely sure when that voice in my head began to dominate me the most and when I stopped enjoying the company and the value that she brought me. She definitely was my best friend when we were 13 and she was ace. She helped me switch off from the real world. She gave me purpose and I loved her for that. She was my best friend, there when I needed her, and reassuring me when I felt lost or alone. The bond we had was incredible… or was it. After three years of being best friends I no longer seemed to do what she wanted. I wasn’t trying hard enough and I wasn’t losing enough weight. The cycle of happiness I had been living in for so long had disappeared. Instead of wishing I could do better and please my anorexia more I felt trapped. I would lay in bed for hours wishing that I would not wake up. Wishing my life away not knowing when I would feel better again. I hated what I had become and I felt lost and so afraid. Maybe that’s why part of me was secretly happy when my pre CAMHs routine got disrupted.

Every Tuesday my Mum would come and get me after registration to take me to CAMHs to get weighed and have a therapy session. I would get registered and then head to the locker room where I would have about 3 2 litre bottles of water. I would stand in the locker room downing the water. Stars in front my eyes, my head spinning as it took all my strength to keep drinking and full up on water. But one Tuesday she turned up and I hadn’t had time to water load. I felt agitated on the way to the hospital and as I reached inside my school bag to pull out the weights I realised that I had forgotten those as well. As I sat in the waiting room I felt in a complete mess and then I got weighed. My weight had dropped.

Two weeks later I ended up in hospital – my heart had nearly stopped and this was the last resort.

I spent the next year of my life recovering from anorexia. It was hard work and made harder that my weight seemed to go up and up and my mind couldn’t keep up. I had to learn the important of eating and the importance of talking about how I felt – both of these things seemed aliened to me. As I put on the weight, feelings that I had never felt flooded back through me. This was terrifying at the time and at times I do still panic when I feel too much. But learning to cope with my feelings in hospital helped me. I learnt the power of the words ‘I am not okay’ – and I gradually realised that people did care and want to help and sharing my feelings was much better than not eating. Like seriously, what had not eating ever done?

I spent a year getting intensive treatment and I was equipped with the resources to help me keep well but the reality was the battle was not over yet. I had to keep well and manage my recovery. I had to keep managing those voices in my head telling me I was fat, worthless and only good at anorexia.

Managing my recovery got easier. I had less fat days and began to switch off at meal times. I gradually began to accept that anorexia does not make me feel better or give me value but that I can get that value from those round me. I also realised how much better life is when I am not letting anorexia consume me. Yes, I didn’t think this was an issue when I was best friends with her but it was so true. I never could have gone travelling had I been friends with her still and I never could have done marathons or even had a more normal life. I was so lucky that I was given a second chance at life to conquer anorexia and start living again.

Please give it ago. If you are living with an eating disorder, please do seek help. Give beating anorexia a go.

I guarantee you it will be worth it – yes hard work but the best thing you decide to do.

Hope Virgo suffered with anorexia for 4 years before being admitted to hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year and since being discharged, has fought to stay well. Hope now lives and works in London, runs marathons and has a keen interest in exercise and maintaining good mental health. She is in a whole new place, taking each day as it comes and living life to its fullest. Hope has recently written her first book, Stand Tall Little Girl (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stand-Tall-Little-Girl-Inspirational/dp/1911246151)

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