An Increase in Anxiety: Panic attacks and Therapy thoughts.

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(image: Your Tango)

Hi friends,

It has been a while since I’ve shared a personal blog and I want to be as honest as possible.

It has been a whirlwind of a time- I got married to my wonderful husband in July- we really had the best day, I have been editing and finishing writing my book Bring me to Light and I also started a new job at a charity in May- which has meant I have been blogging less. I love my new job however I am much busier!

This has meant an increase in my anxiety levels and panic attacks in the mornings at times, related to social anxiety. I worry about the day ahead and sometimes don’t feel able to leave home. I have been trying to combat this but its been really hard and is still ongoing for me.

I have had a lot of CBT and talking therapies but believe my anxiety to be trauma based re what happened to me 5 years ago, being sectioned and in hospital. As such, I would like to have EMDR therapy, a type of therapy that helps to process trauma through focusing on images and rapid eye movement. It is hard to describe but I believe this is what I need in order to keep my anxiety disorder under control- and get rid of most of it.

In the mean time I have been leaning on my support network and have been prescribed beta blockers for when the anxiety is at its highest. I have also been referred back to psychiatry in order to get a referral for EMDR.

Except…. my NHS borough don’t fund EMDR therapy so the only route in is via a service called IAPT. It may be that I have to go privately if the NHS standard of therapy is not good enough but there we are. There is still a 2 year waiting list to even have an assessment for therapy, but via IAPT it is quicker, so I hope I can get some form of help for me. The funding for mental health in the UK is atrocious and I hope this will improve….

Having the support of my parents, Rob and family has been hugely helpful to me and my new amazing colleagues who believe in me and have been very supportive.

But, it has been exhausting.

Panic attacks make me want to sleep, blank out and sometimes you can’t do that. You have to face the day and fight. That’s where the beta blocker meds come in for me right now as they calm the body down when you need to show up to something (deep breathing doesn’t do it for me). Usually, I feel better once I don’t react to the anxiety negatively and try to dig deep and push through, but its not easy.

This week, we are going on honeymoon in Italy and I am looking forward to a relaxed, sunshiney break by and in the pool, beach and spa with Rob and eating lots of delicious Italian food. A break is desperately needed and I hope I won’t have any panic attacks on holiday, but have a restful time!

Here’s hoping I will find something that will help ease the panic. I have tried so many things for so many years and it’s still here.

Eleanor x

 

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You can pre order Bring me to Light, my book on mental health, now!

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Hi friends, its now August and my book is out in the UK on October 30th and November 5th in the USA! I tell my life story with being hospitalised for bipolar disorder episodes twice, most recently in 2014 and how I found a form of recovery and have become a writer on mental health.
My book is called ‘Bring Me to Light’ because I found light in the darkness, hope where there was none. It took many years and this time was a challenge. I hope that reading my book will make you feel less alone. It talks about bipolar, psychosis, depression, anxiety and mania.
It also talks about my wonderful family and friends who have helped me along the way and teachers, doctors, psychiatrists and nurses. Team effort.
the Trigger website (my publisher). USA people you can order it on your Amazon too.
Book launches to follow later in the year, stay tuned for details!

Mental health and the juggling act: New Job, My book and Wedding. by Eleanor

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(image: Trigger Publishing)

Nearly a month ago, I started my new job at a big Jewish charity here in London. I work in a small but lovely team in PR and Communications- helping run social media, write and distribute press releases and copywriting. I am enjoying it but its totally different from my other work and I am far less immersed in the mental health world than I was a few months ago. It is a juggling act. Trying to keep up with changes and all that’s occurring though. Hopefully soon I will find time to write articles again for my friends at Metro.co.uk and Happiful.

This has brought its own challenges as I havn’t been blogging here as much either, due to writing my book. My book  ‘Bring me to Light’  will be released in the UK on November 5th and the USA shortly after, with Trigger Publishing. The title references going from darkness to light, as I have done with my bipolar and anxiety since I was 16. I have written most of it (50,000 words!) but my very kind editor has extended the deadline for it so I can write everything I need too, whilst also doing my day job and wedding planning (!). I am really excited to see a printed copy and to promote it later this year- the hard work will be worth it I hope. I also hope you enjoy reading it and thank you all for your ongoing support.

So, wedding planning, we are 5 weeks away now until I marry Rob, my fiance. It has come round so fast especially as we have had a year and few month’s engagement, I am counting down the days until I am under the Chuppah (Jewish marriage canopy) and we are officially married in presence of those we love! This week I had my final dress fitting and it was super emotional. I still can’t believe its happening. Rob’s dad is recovering slowly at home but his condition is still serious as he has cancer.

Naturally, you will be wondering- how am I staying sane with my bipolar with everything going on and with Robs dad not being well? Firstly, as we know, stressors can make bipolar worse and trigger episodes. At the moment, my main mood stabiliser Lithium keeps me very grounded and stable. Despite the stress, I am not dipping down into  deep depression as I would have done in the past. Yes-  there are times when I might feel stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted or tired and just want to sit in my pyjamas watching Made in Chelsea or First Dates. There are also times when I am too tired to cook or do laundry and need support with those. I am lucky to have a very supportive family who look out for me too.

My work colleagues have been super supportive when I have been overwhelmed or anxious and I am finding the flexibility of my work helpful too.  I am having less anxious days now I am working too due to exposure therapy and going out a little more (taking the bus and cabs and talking to new people).

For me, I really need self care time, time to switch off and unplug. As we go into Shabbat  now is the perfect time to read and be quiet, come off my phone and computer and just be. I really promote looking after you and taking time to sleep and rest for optimum mental health and to feel better again. Sometimes it can help to let others know how you’re feeling too.

I have two weeks to give in my first book manuscript and five til my wedding day. These are dreams I have had for years and I can’t quite believe they’re happening. Staying sane while planning a wedding without a planner can be hard but we have worked as a team. Having a good cry has really helped also at times, when things get too much! But generally happy, wonderful things so not to complain. Everything at once can get a lot for anyone. Life at the moment is hectic but I am pacing myself as much as possible.

If you would like to preorder my book, you can do so on Amazon or the Trigger website and I would love to know if you do :).

Thanks for being there for me and for supporting my work too. I hope we end the stigma against mental health by talking, sharing and explaining.

Love,

Eleanor xxx

Social Anxiety: How I stopped feeling nervous about talking to others. Guest blog by David Morin

 

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(image: Yellow Co )

This is my story on how even when things look dark, there might be change just around the corner.

You see, I grew up deep inside the Swedish countryside as an only child. My parents were rather old when they had me, so people often assumed them to be my grandparents.

In school, I was an outcast. Because I had only socialised with adults, I had a hard time bonding with people my own age.

Naturally, this made me socially awkward and anxious in social settings, especially around strangers and large groups.

One time, a friend convinced me to join a party. When I finally showed up, I felt everyone’s eyes on me, like radar-tracking from all directions. I locked myself into the bathroom. Looking at the person in the mirror, I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with him.

Later, I learned that my awkwardness and nervousness was much more common than I had first thought. It’s just that everyone hides their chaotic inner under a calm surface (just like I did).

I started studying behavioural science. As it turned out, social anxiety often starts small in life. But when we start avoiding social settings, our anxiety snowballs into a monster.

We can’t overnight break the shackles of social anxiety. But what we CAN do, is take small steps out of what we normally do.

I started doing things slightly out of the ordinary. Instead of looking down the ground, I forced myself to hold eye contact with people I walked by on the street, if only for a split second. After a few weeks, when that felt normal, I tried to hold it a bit longer, and maybe even smile.

My smiles were forced and awkward, and I probably looked like a weirdo. But over time, I could interact with people in a warm and relaxed manner.

Thanks to taking small steps and challenging myself a little every day, I became more confident as the years went by. Not just with other people but in life in general.

7 years ago, I started a blog where I teach people how to stop being nervous. That confirmed to me that I wasn’t lonely. We’re one big nervous family all in this together. So why not help each other?

I recently got the opportunity to leave all my friends and family in Sweden and move to New York City – a place where I knew no one. If I hadn’t had the confidence I have today, I would never have dared to do it.

Challenging my anxiety was my key to living life to the fullest.

But back then, in that Swedish forest, things looked dark. Thinking back to that time taught me a lesson:

Just because things are hard at the moment, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. Life is ever-changing, and that’s what makes it so exciting.  

 

This blog was written by writer David Morin who used exposure therapy to help his own social anxiety and find recovery.

 

The Social Anxiety Diaries by Eleanor

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This blog started as a way for me to express my innermost thoughts and feelings, the state of my mental health and write it all out on the page. I would like to continue this and so asked people on my Facebook group what they would like to hear about.

This blog on my social anxiety was voted for and here it is.

I must start by saying that I am quite a social person and love my friends. A lot of us with social anxiety are. I have lived with this form of anxiety since I was about 18 years old. It essentially is an anxiety disorder that is hard to control- and where you begin to fear being around people, crowds, small talk and socialising for fear of being exposed or judged negatively. This has impacted how I work too and sometimes how often I leave the house.

My anxiety disorder started in my teen years because my unmedicated bipolar disorder led me to act in ways I didn’t recognise. I became hyper, everything was heightened and I wasn’t my usual self. And so the fear of acting like this again or being judged for it, was what triggered my social anxiety.

11 years later, a lot has changed for me for the better. I am finally on the right medication. I have a loving partner, family and friends. However, yes I do still have social anxiety. It does cause panic attacks, especially in the mornings and it can stop me from attending work or social events. .

It is frustrating to admit this. As I have been in a lot of very helpful therapy and I have learnt what coping mechanisms can help me- but they are often hard to implement mid panic. However, I do think I will always have a certain level of panic which will restrict certain parts of my life. This is why I work freelance and from home. Writing has helped me heal.

What I do know is on the good days, I make sure to keep busy and see people/ go out as the more I do this, the fear lessens. If I am feeling low, the anxiety rears its head too. When I am depressed, I can become slightly agoraphobic and won’t want to leave the house. Its something I have to monitor and work on. Set myself achievable goals eg walk down the road, see a friend, call someone etc.

Some of my friends have been so kind and understanding about living with this and having to cancel certain arrangements. There are times I  have to force myself into doing things although it takes so much energy and can also make me have more panic attacks so its a fine line. I have to do whats best for me and my mind. If it is spiralling into panic, the rational self finds it hard to drown it out.

In general, I am doing OK but I have to do what is best for me in order to manage my anxiety disorder. If that means a night in or less time seeing people then sometimes this is what is needed.

However, I will continue to be an anxiety warrior and do all I can to expose myself to any feared situations when possible. It takes lots of energy!

What have I tried to manage this?

– Group sessions on managing anxiety, meditation and journalling
– Talking therapy for 6 months (which worked) and CBT three times (which didn’t stop the panic attacks)
– Exposure therapies with those I love helping me

Do you have this and how do you cope?

Love, Eleanor x 

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. 

Blog for No Panic on Living with Social Anxiety: by our founder Eleanor

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(image: No Panic)

I am delighted to collaborate and write a blog with No Panic, an amazing mental health charity for people with anxiety disorders. You can read it here on their website:   https://www.nopanic.org.uk/living-social-anxiety-story/  and also below:

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(image: No Panic)

I have lived with my anxiety disorder for most of my life, but it really started at aged 15, when I was so acutely anxious I had to take six weeks off school during my GCSE year. I was suffering from an agitated depression, an episode that left me reeling. I was so young and so unwell. It was partly triggered by stressful life events but what I didn’t know at that time was that my anxiety and depression was part of a wider illness- bipolar disorder.

After several episodes of depression and mania, I was hospitalised at aged 16 at the Priory North London and diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. Bipolar is a mood disorder where you fluctuate between episodes of depression, hypomania (a lesser manic state) or mania. It can run in families and can be triggered by life events. I am now 29, so have lived with this for almost 14 years.

I was hospitalised due to a severe depression that featured psychosis, where your mind loses touch with reality and can cause bad anxiety. I had delusions- false beliefs about the world and a lot of fear. Luckily, I recovered after four months of treatment, left and started taking regular medication which began to help, however, the anxiety seemed to be ever present.

As I had been so ill as a teenager with a whole host of symptoms due to my bipolar, I developed social anxiety and panic attacks. I was desperate to fit in and appear ‘normal’ as most teenagers are. I felt different, I was facing life with a chronic illness. There was so much uncertainty, they couldn’t just scan my brain to see what was going on. Taking medication was trial and error for me, some worked and some didn’t. The same with therapies.

The social anxiety was about feeling judged by other people, because I was judging myself wrongly for what had happened during my episodes. It impacted my self esteem- I felt low about myself and didn’t know why I had been given this illness and why it caused me so much embarrassment and shame at the time. There was a stigma back in 2004, that has lessened today

My social anxiety manifested a few years after I had left hospital. I began to fear attending parties, dates and social events with friends, in case I was judged negatively. As a teenager, there was a lot of stigma from other teenagers about my illness. This made me feel depleted, sad and angry. I didn’t choose my brain chemistry- so why were they spreading false rumours about me and making me feel worthless? It was a difficult time for me. I did also have a lot of love and support.

However, my heart would race and the event eg a birthday party in a club or bar, would trigger an absolute state of panic. What if I looked awful/ wore the wrong clothes? What if everyone was judging me when I got there and thinking badly of me? I often would cancel on friends and not attend, for fear of having to show up, however I felt. I felt so vulnerable and I didn’t want anyone to see it.

Part of the anxiety was because when you have bipolar episodes of mania and depression (particularly mania) it leaves you feeling ashamed of your behaviour. For me there was a certain sense of shame, especially with the manic episodes. However, I knew it wasn’t my true personality and I could not control my brain chemistry at the time it happened. Yet, my subconscious mind continued to trigger panic in social situations.

I was lucky and am still lucky to have a group of very supportive friends (and family) who helped me to get out more, through exposure therapy. My Mum or Dad would take me out in the car, or friends would come to the house and coax me slowly out into the world again. Exposure therapy, moving slowly to expose myself to the feared situations is so helpful to me, even today.

Aged 20, I began my first course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for the anxiety. I worked out with my therapist what the limiting beliefs holding me back were- fear of judgement, fear of being exposed negatively (as my illness made me feel so out of control) and I was asked to keep thought records of my negative thoughts at the time of a panic attack.

For me, panic attacks manifested themselves as feeling clammy, sick, tight chest, overwhelming negative thoughts about a situation and the fight or flight desire to run away and cancel the arrangement, removing myself from the feared trigger. Although the CBT did not stop the anxiety and panic, it gave me some tools at the time to understand it.

Over the years, I have completed three courses of CBT with a psychologist and another therapist, until I gave up on it, because my anxiety was so emotionally rooted and based in the subconscious that the cognitive approach was not working. For me a combination of the following helps.

Firstly, talking therapy about any past traumas (psychodynamic) with my current therapist is so helpful and makes me feel so grounded and safe. Secondly, when very stressed, I find meditation, particularly the Yoga Nidra meditation or apps like Headspace so helpful for breathing. Taking deep breaths can help relieve stress. Thirdly, exposure therapy is key to recovery. I find the more I go out accompanied, the more I feel able to do- it’s a slow process but helpful.

In 2014, after ten years out of hospital, I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode with psychosis. This hospitalisation caused a lot of trauma and anxiety and in hospital, I found art therapy incredibly helpful. Making a picture, collage or painting focused and calmed my mind. Even colouring in a book helped me to filter out the stress of being in hospital and kept my mind calm. I suppose this is a form of mindfulness too and I still love art today.

I very much support the work of No Panic and am so thrilled to write here. Since 2016, I have made a really good recovery from my bipolar and am now stable on medication. My anxiety is still there but I now have a career writing freelance for Metro Online, Happiful Magazine, Glamour and mental health charities such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and Time to Change. I have also written my mental health blog www.beurownlight.com, which is about my journey with bipolar and anxiety and those of others. It is currently nominated for a UK Blog Award.

Just know that if you currently experience anxiety and panic attacks, whatever triggers it- there will be something out there to help you- whether its therapy, medication, mindfulness, exercise, meditation, art or exposure to the feared situation in small doses. You are not alone.

For more on No Panic please see: https://www.nopanic.org.uk/

Mental Health, Social Media and Relationships: Reality vs the Edit

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This post has been inspired by a few experiences that have happened to me in my life- regarding relationships with others- be they a friend or otherwise and social media.

I am a self confessed social media lover and addict. I love its ease, I use it as a way to store memories to look back on- photos, places I have been. A kind of virtual diary. I use it to keep in touch with friends, acquaintances who I would never normally see as they are in different countries or regions- and to keep in touch with friends I see regularly. I am always on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (though not Snapchat- showing my age) and I truly love being online. Most of the time.

The difficult part about having bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder/ social anxiety is that it is not easily visible. Equally, on social media we always tend to present an edited version of ourselves- the good side. The positive side. The places we’ve been and the friends we’ve seen, those close to us. My Facebook profile, when I can achieve things, shows me smiling and being out and about. However, this has the potential to upset people if I have had to cancel arrangements due to anxiety.

The main refrain is often ‘But you were able to do it then- so why can’t you do it now?’.   How come the next day you could go out for dinner (I saw it on your Facebook)?

I understand this reaction. I do post a lot to celebrate achievements to myself and keep memories- happy memories for when I do become unwell again (which I hope won’t be for a long time). Social anxiety means that I want to look back on and remember the good times, the happy times.

The tough part is that relationships can become strained if one overly posts on social media. So its a complete dichotomy.

Do I post my life and enjoy the times I am able to socialise and go out without anxiety? Or do I edit what I upload so as not to hurt feelings of people I have had to cancel due to anxiety attacks? Ultimately- do I take my memories offline and into a private journal or on Instagram rather than Facebook?

All of this has been going through my head. Mental illness is not as straight forward to others as a broken leg. I don’t wear a sign saying I am bipolar or a bandage round my head.

I may look like I am having the time of my life…. but one may not see that:

Yesterday I could have had a panic attack which meant I couldn’t leave the house as I felt overwhelmed and embarrassed, and totally drained from the adrenaline. I got out to socialise now because a family member drove me somewhere as a form of exposure therapy to lessen my anxiety.

OR this scenario…..

My anxiety took over and I felt so frightened I was hyperventilating, crying and beating myself up emotionally, for not being able to see a friend. Because yes, we don’t want to have this and we care deeply about our friends feelings.

OR this scenario….

I have heard you talking negatively about me to someone else because I had to cancel an arrangement. Yet, I have anxiety about travel and socialising and sometimes feel overwhelmed. You know this, yet will still be upset- which I have to take into account.

So no, I am not really having the time of my life all the time. Friends are my priority but equally optimum health and managing day by day is to me hugely important.

I will try my very best not to let you down. If I hurt you through my social anxiety, it is never intentional.

I have learnt the hard way the pitfalls of social media with mental health issues. The large part is that we don’t want to talk about how depressed or anxious or panicked we are on Facebook. So it gets hidden and misunderstandings happen.

I hope one day it comes into the light, through my blog and when I can be more open.