How I manage Anxiety and Psychosis : Guest post by Peter McDonnell for Time to Talk Day

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For Time to Talk Day, I want to share about my experiences of mental health. Yes, I have anxiety and yes, I have psychosis.  But no, I am not unhappy. On the contrary – I had a very good 2018.  And 2017, and 2016…lucky me. You see, I have learned how to manage them.  I learned how to manage them so they don’t bother me at all any more (he wrote, hoping not to invoke some sort of ‘commentators curse’) even if they do make me think of them many times each day.   I’ve worked hard and learned so much about how to be happy and live a normal life anyway. 

My diagnosis in 2001 was “cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature” as worded by my first doctor.  It is the only diagnosis I ever had. Delusions of a grandiose nature meant, for me, that I thought I was the telepathic modern day Jesus- the only son of God, and was destined for the whole world to know it quite soon.  I picked up panic attacks in about 2004, which turned into general anxiety.  The panic attacks mostly stopped in about 2006 after giving up cannabis for good and being put on Clozapine.  Clozapine is used for people who are non – responsive to other drugs, it was described as a last resort and the phrase ‘miracle cure’ even got passed around.  Genuinely.  It worked incredibly well for me and I even think fondly of it – “my favourite drug”.

I work on a mental health ward now (four to be precise) part time, and I am always getting into chats about a multitude of experiences with the mental health system and recovery with patients and often with their parents who come to visit them.  It feels almost like a duty for me to do that.

I see patients/parents on the PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) ward that don’t know what to expect in the coming years as they are often new to being in the system and it can be scary. I remember my mum saying to me two years ago – “When you first got ill I thought you might never recover or be able to live a normal life.”  So for parents it is worrying that a future like that might be on the cards for their offspring. And not knowing makes it worse.

 So how can I not try and give some information about that sort of thing?   

In a nutshell, some people (like myself) have a tough few years then begin a steady road to recovery, for me initiated by finding a very good medication.  Others are able to spend a few weeks or months on a mental health ward and then go back to their jobs and do really rather well. We are all different. 

This is a short post with limited room, so I’ll focus on what was for me the most important thing that enabled me to get on with my psychosis and anxiety – from managing them to not even caring that I have them.  

Perseverance – but please don’t look away!  Whether it’s just me or not I don’t know, but I often find that word difficult when reading a mental health article.  Maybe it’s because it implies that hard work is coming. But it has been what works for me from 2007 – 2014 while I was learning how to manage my illness.  

I had to push myself to socialise again and again, and my mum had to do the same. She trained as a psychiatric nurse a while back and is very smart. She knew that pushing me relentlessly for a long time was the best thing.  I went to social events even though I knew I’d hate them, for about three years. The worst part of it was that I knew if I gave in to the difficulties and stayed home the anxiety of having to go out would fall away – my mum really had to drag me out of the house sometimes.

 It made it easier in the beginning going to smaller events that were closer to home – that’s what I would tell myself in the first few difficult minutes. But I did always feel a little bit proud and encouraged when I got home – a feeling that stayed with me in a tiny but growing amount.  I had learned that these things honestly do get a bit easier each time, even though my panic attacks were very unpleasant, and thinking that “everyone at the restaurant can hear my negative thoughts, won’t like me for it and I’ll stick out like a sore thumb” didn’t help either.

So honesty time – I still think I have telepathic abilities – part of my illness, a belief that I just can’t shake off.  It surfaces on occasion when I’m watching TV or even in the middle of socialising. I have learned that going back to my likely imagined telepathic ways (part of my psychosis) just opens up a can of worms.  It’s not what I want. With the TV I can always change the channel which is at worst annoying but often I find something better to watch on another channel so who cares?

I rarely get these strange ideas of telepathic communication while socialising.  It’s like thinking that someone may have just heard one of my thoughts, and then I can hear in my mind what they thought about hearing that thought.  Sometimes it happens when I’m sitting on the loo. A person doesn’t need to be the object of my visual and auditory focus, though that’s when the communication seems strongest.  If I am socialising I just take a break  and this works fine. It’s my mind now, and I tell it to work for my benefit and it usually does.

I feel so lucky to have recovered so well.  I know that some people don’t. I owe so much to the simple but also difficult element of perseverance.  

 

About the author

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Peter is a writer who writes articles on his own website and also guest posts for other websites/ blogs.  He proudly wrote a 3500 word essay recently for The Taylor and Francis Psychosis Journal which they published in their 2018 edition.  He is also working on his book, a mental health memoir. Peter has several part time jobs.

His website is  petermcdonnellwriter.com

Twitter  @PeterMcDonnell_

https://mobile.twitter.com/PeterMcDonnell_

Facebook as Peter Edward Mcdonnell 

https://m.facebook.com/peter.e.mcdonnell

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Winter blues, Depression and Social anxiety by Eleanor

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In the past few weeks, I have found that all I want to do is stay inside, under a cosy blanket in my little nook on the couch, reading lots of good books or watching something good on TV (by good I mean my favourite reality shows at this time of year!). I have been practising a lot of self care activities as I havn’t been feeling at my strongest or happiest this week. I think I may have seasonal depression but I am not sure if its the winter blues – probably the winter lack of light combined with my bipolar brain chemistry.

Sometimes I  will phone or whatsapp my friends, I will take long bubble baths and sing in the tub (feeling like some kind of surreal movie like Amelie) , I have discovered a new love for the Body Shop seaweed clay facial mask (it leaves my skin so soft and moisturised and helps my spots). I have wrapped myself in my pink, Beauty and the Beast blanket (without make up on) and just enjoyed the freedom of being. Of resting and being in the moment. Of being more mindful.

There have been times when this has become a bad thing. I’ve spent several nights this week on my own and there have been days where my anxiety has increased and I havn’t wanted to go outside. This is because its cold and dark (winter here in England), I don’t want to interact with random people or I just don’t want to be out in this weather when I could be warm and cosy at home.  I am an introvert (who also loves people). My introvert side craves time on my own but this is also part of my social anxiety.

However, every anxiety win.. like going to a gig in Holborn with my Dad and using the Tube (I forgot about the lack of personal space) or hanging out with my fiance or friends without cancelling on them, has been good. In truth though, I have had to cancel a lot of plans this week and luckily have very understanding people in my life. I hate letting people down but sometimes I can’t cope- the adrenaline pumps and things feel too much for me, too overwhelming.

I have felt overwhelmed and mildly depressed this week. However, I am coming to the slow realisation that this is OK. Its alright to struggle and to want human contact but also to find it overwhelming too.

I do need to get more fresh air though, exercise more and be healthier. Part of the lure of being inside is that its relaxing and ‘safer’ but the outside world is not as scary as my head decides it is when its cold and dark in winter.

I think I have mild seasonal depression- so its really important I do all I can to work with that and go outside my comfort zone- when all I really want is to be a doormouse surrounded by those I love and sometimes curled up on my own!

I am going to start talking therapy again soon as theres been a lot of stressful things going on, so hopefully that will help too.

How do you help your seasonal depression?

  Eleanor x

Tips to Relieve Social Anxiety for Happiful Magazine (March 2018 Issue)

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Our founder Eleanor is published in this months Happiful Magazine, talking about social anxiety and tips to help. Below is a short part of the article- you can read the full article in the link:   https://happiful.com/tips-to-relieve-social-anxiety/

For some of us, it’s butterflies in the stomach. But for others, it’s a crippling fear of even leaving the house. Social anxiety can feel overwhelming, but you can take back control. Here, Eleanor Segall (founder of this blog) gives advice on overcoming social anxiety:

I have bipolar disorder – a mood disorder – and experience anxiety as part of this. When I was about 20, I started to have intense anxiety and panic attacks before social situations – so much so they would stop me from leaving the house.Anxiety has a large impact on so many people’s daily lives. Whether it’s anxiety about a job interview, dating, meeting new people, travelling, health, work or whether you suffer from a diagnosed anxiety disorder and have panic attacks, it can be incredibly overwhelming.

I was fearful of being judged negatively by other people, and this caused the physical symptoms of social anxiety – a racing heart, clammy and sweaty skin, negative and fearful thoughts, low mood and wanting to hide from situations by cancelling them to stay at home. The result was that I’d then feel guilty about upsetting others.

The difficulty is that anxiety can often be triggered by something you’re not conscious of. It took time for me to realise that my limiting beliefs about social situations were due to my reaction to being diagnosed with a mental illness as a teenager. Although I still have to work with anxiety in my life, together with my family and friends, I’ve found how to make the social anxiety more manageable – here are my four top tips to hopefully help you too:

I’ve learned that anxiety does pass, if you sit with it and let it be – for me, it takes about 45 minutes. Even five minutes of sitting with it can be incredibly difficult and takes practice, but knowing it will pass and can’t harm you is important. The anxiety symptoms are often worse than the event itself. I’ve learnt with social anxiety that if I can face the event, I can lean on my support network to help me through it.Remember it will pass

Use your support network – exposure therapy:

READ FULL ARTICLE:  https://happiful.com/tips-to-relieve-social-anxiety/

The best way to support a friend or family member through anxiety and depression.

I have been asked by my friends to write an article about how best to support someone through a mental health issue. There is not a one sized fits all answer, due to the fact that every illness and person is unique with their own brain chemistry and life experience. However, I am  going to offer a few tips on what you can do if someone is suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression (for this article I am going to leave out other illnesses eg bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis, addictions but will speak about them at a later date)

So what can you do if your loved one is suffering from  an anxiety disorder/ depression?

Anxiety disorders are a group of multi faceted disorders which can include things like generalised anxiety, social anxiety, health anxiety, OCD, PTSD and more. Your loved one may be suffering from lack of sleep, nightmares, inability to sit still, palpitations, racing or obsessive thoughts, panic attacks and hyperventilation. They may feel more on edge, or in the case of OCD- be checking and analysing everything. Anxiety disorders run in certain patterns and all are unique to the individual- what one person with anxiety may have will be different to another, however there are some general patterns to anxiety.

When a person is suffering from anxiety, they may also have physical health symptoms as above due to the increase in adrenaline and the stress hormone, cortisol.

Depression or depressive disorders are sometimes caused due to a chemical imbalance in the brain (not enough seretonin) and can require medication to return the brain to its usual state. Some are a mixture of chemical imbalance and challenging life experiences or brought on from a period of stress eg divorce, moving house, losing a baby, having a baby, being unemployed etc . Symptoms typically can include loss of motivation, feeling tearful, low and hopeless, not wanting to engage socially or be involved with activities one enjoys.

If your loved one is suffering from anxiety or depression the best way you can help is by speaking and interacting with them calmly- not judging them or accusing them of anything bad, but simply being a laid back, supportive friend or partner. If someone can’t socialise, its best to just text once in a while and check up on how they are doing- or send a hand written note or card. Most importantly, do not pressure the person to see you, talk to you or go out.. but just be there for them calmly as a listening ear and encourage them to do small achievable things for themselves.

It is good to encourage your friend to go out with you but not to pressurise. Similarly, getting a bit of fresh air can help. If your friend or loved one is at crisis point ie threatening to take their own life, feeling suicidal, not eating or sleeping and being involved in self harming or risk taking behaviours, it is very important to do the following:

1) If a friend is suicidal, listen to them but do not promise to keep it a secret. You must tell their nearest relative/ best friend/ someone they trust if you believe they are in danger of a suicide attempt or at harm to themselves . Encourage them to see their GP immediately or speak to a help line and the GP will be able to tell you if a psychiatric referral is needed. A psychiatrist and team known as the Crisis Team will then  step in to help.

2) If a loved one you live with is suicidal, go with them to the Doctor or get a doctor to come out to you. There is stigma around this BUT if your loved one is really ill and their brain is effectively temporarily ‘broken’ much like a broken leg, it needs fixing. Your loved one needs help and support to recover whether its medication, counselling or more support at home. Do not blame yourself. This is an illness- not something you have done.

Ultimately, be loving, caring and supportive and CALM- however angry or frustrated you feel. Being frustrated to someone who is unwell can cause them to have feelings of guilt, low self esteem or worthlessness which the depression/ anxiety may perpetuate.

Be there as a support and listening ear but make sure you have a break and take time for you too.