How to protect yourself from corona.

See what I did there with that title?∧

Got your attention didn’t it.

So, follow these instructions carefully and within minutes your self protection will kick in.

  1. Log on to Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest
  2. Go to settings.
  3.  Scroll down till you reach the log out button
  4. Click on it.

 

Repeat steps 1-4 on all social media platforms.  then sit back, take a deep breath and revel in the quietness.

Having just typed the word Corona in to my WhatsApp search bar revealed that in the last 4 days I have received 46 messages with the word Corona in them.  This is after leaving a public group that I was on, if I was still  on the group the number would have been vast. Typing in to the Facebook search bar the word “Corona”, the first hit that appears is a group with the title “Corona” in big, dark scary looking font, the group had, when I last checked 15 million likes.  What there is to like about Corona escapes me, but each to their own.

Most, if not all conversations the last couple of weeks have revolved around the virus, the panic buying of toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitizer, the mass global panic, the hoards of people stampeding a supermarket is something I do not remember ever experinacing before.

It was only a matter of time before the jokes started, and below i have selected 2 just in case you are the only person in the world whose phone has not stopped pinging with these pictures:

 

 

My daughter has been very  anxious this week, due I am sure, partly to my own anxieties, which have been difficult to hide.  She is mostly worried about us running out of food, which, in a child’s mind is one of the biggest calamities that could happen.

(Side note to adults: wherever I  have written the word grass, feel free to insert toilet roll)

Trying to explain to her the concept of herd mentality helped me to clear the space in my own mind to start to be slightly rational.  I compared us all to a herd of sheep in a field.  One sheep whispers in to the others ear “Have you heard, grass is disappearing, you had better get all the grass you can really quickly otherwise you will surely starve”.  The sheep hearing this, runs off in a wild panic gobbling up all the grass he can find, other sheep start muttering to themselves, they look at panicky sheep and they to feel the panic start to take hold, and off they go, not exactly knowing why they are running madly towards the panicked sheep, but nevertheless copying what he is doing, because she obviously knows something we dont, all of them gobbling and snatching at the grass.  Except one little black sheep, the black sheep stands bewildered, she sees grass all around her, she knows that it will rain, which will make more grass grow, she sees her mummy and daddy black sheep sleeping peacefully in the corner and knows they will keep her safe, and as she happily goes back to minding her own business and grazing on her grass she thinks to herself “boy, all those white sheep are sure going to have an awesome stomach ache”.

The herd mentality is something we are all experiencing now.  Think about it  for a minute, the panic buying of toilet paper.  Huh?? why toilet paper of all things? surely it would make more sense to be panic buying every food good we can, toothpaste, batteries, medication etc.  One person somewhere in the world decided that toilet paper is the most crucial item to have at home in case of a world wide pandemic and the herd have followed.  ( Saying that though, I think I will take a break to check how much we have………ok, checked, we have 12 which I think, with rationing of 1/3 a sheet each should do us nicely for the near future )

On a more serious note, this week has found my “normal” anxiety levels ( which you may know are high at any given times) reach new levels. For those who have to self isolate, those who experience health anxiety, are vulnerable both physically and emotionally the period we are going through now must be awful.  Pictures coming out of China and other countries with a high rate of Corona shows people throwing themselves out of buildings, gangs beating people in the streets and more. The fear that is provoking some to act in ways that would and should be seen as horrendous.  As I washed my hands for the 7th time today the thought struck me that  for those who experience OCD with thoughts such as “if I do not wash my hands something bad will happen” their condition is now becoming even more extreme then usual.  The cancer patients who can not get hold of essential hand sanitiser for their hands, the elderly and the people who are socially isolated how scared and worried they must be.

Last night on the phone a friend imparted wise words.  Take yourself off WhatsApp groups, do not listen to the news, turn of the TV or only watch mind numbing series, take yourself off certain Facebook  groups for a while. If there is anything crucial you need to know, you will find out.  I can attest that she was correct, not having my phone beep every 10 seconds with another catastrophic news report, or even having the constant jokes has brought down my anxiety substantially.

Perhaps a way to calm our own anxiety is to reach out to those who, due to many reasons are even more socially isolated now, offer to cook for them, shop for them or just have a chat on the phone.  This morning I received an email from the Chief Executive of the organisation I work for.  He quoted a Rabbi from Los Angeles, Rabbi Yosef Kanevsky, the Rabbi writes:

“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise”.

How beautiful, how perfect for today when we find ourselves in states of high anxiety, fear, illness and worry, to be able to take a deep breath, and ask what we can do for others who are in the same situation, or far worse off than we are.

Wishing you and all your loved ones, Health and well being.

 

 

Anxiety and Purim.

Generalised anxiety disorder is defined by Wikipedia as “An anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about events or activities. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, and sufferers are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work difficulties.

Symptoms may include excessive worry, restlessness, trouble sleeping, feeling tired irritability, sweating, and trembling.

Fear of escalator’s, pigeons, sitting at a red light, being home alone may seem irrational, yet, those who experience daily anxiety will be able to relate to the ones I feel.
Anxiety disorders are on the rise, although some are easy to understand, the ones we all experience at some points, whether before an job interview, or long journey the nervousness we feel is considered “normal”, but what happens when anxiety follows you around like an annoying shadow, and no matter how we try to weave, and prance our way around it, it sticks to us wherever we go, whatever we are doing.
Those of us whom have generalized anxiety disorder will ask for constant, repeated reassurance and it is completely understandable that after being asked for that over and over again the one doing the reassurance will respond with a lot of eye rolling, believing we being hypochondriac’s, will not understand whey we cant just ” think positive” and will wonder why we need to over dramatize everything

.
Having bipolar, combined with anxiety can at times be a daily struggle, from waking up till falling in to a usually highly charged/ disturbing dreaming sleep, somewhere at the back of my mind are those worries, those negative thoughts, “Do I look OK today” “Who will I talk to in the playground at school today” “Am I a good mother, wife, friend, employee” “there is a pigeon over there….. runnnnnn”!!
Carolyn M. Drazinic, MD, PhD, assistant professor in psychiatry, genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut Health Centre in Farmington says, “It is very common to see an anxiety disorder coexisting with bipolar disorder”
Having a combination of Bipolar and anxiety can produce so many extra challenges. 2 people with the same symptoms ( in my case long lasting, stomach pain ) will have completely different conversations with themselves.
Person 1:”This pain is so annoying, it disturbs me every day, I just cant wait for the scan so I can deal with it, I am a little worried because its so often, but the Doctor’s have checked me over and over, they have sent me for tests, if they were overly concerned they would have ordered urgent tests, I will just have to wait and see”
Person 2:”OMG! what’s with this pain? I am so sure that the Doctor has missed something. When I have the scan they are going to find something life threatening, so scared, its just not normal to have stomach pain all day every day. What about that story I read on line?? I am just terrified, should I go to the emergency room tonight?? I need to tell people about this so that they can reassure me, ill just text my husband, friend, therapist, colleague to tell them my stomach is hurting again, and ask them if they think it is something serious? Shall I call an ambulance? No I cant, come-on you know its nothing serious right? No I don’t know that, I am sure they have missed something”.
I think it is pretty obvious which person suffers from anxiety. Yes it sounds laughable, and as I wrote the above I found myself smiling, as I see clearly how often I have the above conversation with people.
Anxiety together with bipolar can cause so much unhappiness and exhaustion, coupled with the obsessive thinking that most people with bipolar tend to have, it can become overwhelming.
Presenting itself in many ways, anxiety can effect us physically, usually through a panic attack. The experience of a panic attack is terrifying. You feel as though your heart is beating at extremely high speed, breathing becomes shallow and you find yourself gasping for oxygen, sweating, trembling, and severe panic are all symptoms of a panic attack. I have not Thank God had a panic attack for a long time now, but I clearly remember the all consuming fear, the all encompassing thought that I was about to die. Eventually I found ways to control and keep the attacks short. This was through deep breathing, reassurance (again!) and listening to sleep mediation videos on you tube. I am ashamed to admit how many time I called Hatzola!

To paint a picture of what anxiety feels have a quick internet search for the Eshima Ohashi bridge in Japan, a a towering monster of a bridge, stretching in to the sky, once you have driven to the dizzying heights of the top, you are faced with the terrifying prospect of driving down the sheer, vertical road ahead of you. The fear you feel is akin to what someone with anxiety will feel going about their daily business, for example when for an unknown reason I developed an irrational fear of elevators , the picture in my mind was the same as I would feel driving up or down the Eshima Ohashi bridge. The elevator looming before me challenging me to step on. Thankfully now through sheer determination on my part ( pat on the back for me!) I am able to cautiously step on, though it takes me time and I dread to think what I look like to other elevator users, as I stand, a panic stricken look on my face, willing myself to take that first step.

With Purim just around the corner I am mindful of the stress and anxiety this Chag can bring. Social, financial, interpersonal anxiety can rear its head. This year I will let myself “off the hook” I will repeat the mantra that has become a lifeline, “I am OK, I am doing my best” and hopefully this year the costume I don will not be used to cover up my anxiety and fear but will bring me true happiness, free of worry.

Keeping Shtum

Last night I was on a battlefield

A war broke out on a WhatsApp group I am on.

The name of the group is “Chessed” which is Hebrew for kindness, on this group you can find messages relating to just about anything you may need at any time, it is a community group and extremely helpful. Need a ride somewhere, go ahead, ask on the group, a recipe, you can get that from someone, opening hours of a certain shop, someone on the group is bound to know.

Last night battle commenced on the group. an innocent post designed to help and educate people caused aggression, disagreements, anger and rudeness, the admins of the group tried to keep the situation calm, removed certain people from the group and informed us that the offending post was “completely unsuitable for our group”.

So what I hear you ask in bewilderment was the offending post? Brace yourselves, a screen shot of the post is below:

 

carolines law

And there you have it, a post encouraging people to sign a petition which could go some way in preventing future suicides, or attempted suicides.

The “offending” post was removed as was the person who posted it.

What ensued was a heated discussion, with people becoming very emotional.  As one person put it “if someone asks to borrow a phone, and someone lends it, that’s a chessed (kindness) but saving a life is not??”

It is situations like the one above which ensures the stigma and shame of Mental Health still continues to strive.  By banning posts which bring awareness to the sensitive subject of suicide we are in our own way reinforcing the message that Mental Health is not to be spoken about.

Saving a life is the biggest Chessed a person can do.

As I pointed out to the admins of the group ( after very emotionally and “loudly” expressing my disgust at them removing the post from the group) Caroline’s law, comes after a tragedy, a lady in the public eye, a beautiful person whom it seemed had everything to live for, at the time that she needed support, love and friendship the most there was no-one. How can we as empathetic, moral people stand back and let others suffer. Sadly the admins response was “remove your comments or be removed from the group”.

Our community is affected by Suicide as much as any other community, and until we are all able to stand tall, shoulder to shoulder and talk about it, nothing will change.

 

How visiting a friend in hospital can affect our own Mental health.

On Monday night I visited a lady I know in the psychiatric ward.  There were a few feelings and emotions that I had no choice but to acknowledge, both before the visit, during and after the visit.

Anyone who has been in the psych ward will know the deep emotional connection we can have with it, the smells, the sounds, especially the aggressive sound of the alarm bell ringing, signalling staff members from other wards that help is needed, the staring faces, the atmosphere of sadness.

Whilst in the ward a few things occurred. First, a nurse who was on duty greeted me, asked me who I was seeing, told me she liked my earrings, all the while not recognising me as the same patient whom had been in her ward a mere few weeks ago. The blank look she gave me spoke volumes, sending a clear message, “I did not see you, really see you as a human, as a person whilst you were in hospital.

Sitting with my friend was a revelation.  As I experience my Bipolar with manic highs, sitting with someone who was suffering with her illness in an aggressive and frankly scary way shook me to my core.  She is an extremely clever lady and whilst with her she rattled off all the names of the people who had proposed to her, the list was never ending, starting with a list of celebrities, going on to a list of people she had known since childhood, her memory for names and places amazed me.  She has not yet accepted that she is ill and currently is refusing medication. She shouted at me that she was the Messiah and they are trying to kill her and silence her voice.  All in all it was  a scary experience.

It naturally made me draw comparisons, the exhaustion I felt after the visit, the low mood, the sadness I feel for her all compounded the emotional reaction I experienced from being in the ward as a visitor. It gave me more awareness of how different Mental Health Illness are experienced, it gave me gratitude that when I am unwell I am not aggressive, in fact I am the opposite, love flows freely, this is not diminishing anyone who suffers from the manic highs, rather it can be just as dangerous and terrifying as living with the illness experienced with lows or anger.

The thought kept and still does keep going around in my mind, asking myself if those who visit me in hospital feel the same or similar emotions after being with me?

The visit, though fleeting left a lasting impression, has affected my mood, things have seemed bleaker, regular situations  I have had to deal with this week have become mountains, my thinking has been black and white with regards to daily struggles, and once again I am experiencing transference to my therapist.  She is occupying far to much space in my mind, the feelings of love I have whilst feeling vulnerable are unhealthy  to the extreme, the panic knowing that I will not see her for 2 weeks overtaking me.  I believe all these are the result of a highly charged visit to the psychiatric ward.

We have to be so aware of “where we are emotionally” before carrying out certain activities, for example visiting the psych ward very soon after being released from one yourself, taking on to much and saying “yes” to everything is a warning sign.  There are times that we are able to help, be there, support and encourage those who need us, but when living with a Mental Health issue caution must always be taken.

Ethics of the Fathers 1:14 states, Hillel says ” If I am not for myself, who will be for me? but if I am only for myself who am I? If not now, when?” The genius of these words are so clear, and can be interpreted on so many levels. Each person will have their own way of looking at these words, taking their own message.

The message I see in these words is ” If not for myself who will be?  Who will look after me if I do not look after myself, who will keep my emotional health and wellbeing at the forefront if not me?”   He continues, “But if I am only for myself who am I?” It is interesting that Hillel started the verse with self care, self love telling us that  only once we have looked after ourselves, made sure we are healthy and well, can we then be there for others.

Saying No!

My therapist has a few phrases she loves to say, wise and always practical, she will often remind me of two vital components to living a healthy life, ( its been 4 years, and yet she perseveres, got to give it to her, she doesn’t give up) these two things are:

Self Care and the stories we tell ourselves.

I have been asking myself, what was  it that made me land up in the psychiatric ward last week? There must have been a build-up, a pressure boiler getting hotter and hotter, a story  occurring that eventually led me to my massive Bipolar manic episode.

My episodes are usually few and far between, and are usually over within a few hours. So what was different this time? Why, on this occasion was I unable to stop the racing thoughts, the need to be moving, the terrifying (for myself on some level , for others too) manic behaviour I was unknowingly displaying?

I think the answer is in those two words, self care.

The ability to say no is a skill that the sensible among us have learnt, to know your limits, to be able to say ” I would love to help you out, give you that ride, cook those meals for you, help organise the party, be class mum, take out that sick person, babysit your children, etc, but right now I need to focus on myself”

Its interesting, even writing the above, I felt selfish, as I type the thought  kept running through my head, ” but what if they are relying on you, need you to do that, the fact that they asked you means they thought you were the one to approach”.  The saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy lady”. Perhaps that busy lady is indeed so busy because we all keep asking her to do things for us?

Whilst in hospital a close friend came to visit, “Sara” said Abigail in her strictest tone of voice ” You have to stop doing so much for everyone else, do you think that by saying yes all the time, you are maybe covering  up for some kind of insecurity?”. Her perception really surprised me, at first a little hurt by her words but quickly recognising the absolute truth in them.

Do we say yes to people all the time, even when we are falling apart, even when we are crying inside for someone to give to us, even when we are just so tired of doing and doing and doing until we fall, exhausted and worn out in to bed because we have some constant voice in our minds, replaying the narrative that most of us have learned throughout our lives, “good people are the ones who do for others”. We see on all forms of media, the good of humankind, those that risk everything, those that stop at nothing to help the vulnerable, the suffering, the children who are hurting and hungry and that voice will tell us, in order to be seen as “good” this is what you have to do.

No one wants to, or should want to live a selfish life, we all need and aspire to do the best we can with the tools we have been given, but I have learned the hard way over the last few weeks, PRACTICE SELF CARE!

The stress I have been under wasn’t anything radical, we all deal with daily stresses, and need to be able to develop inner strength to cope with them, but it was a drip drip build up, it was a friends illness, a stillborn for someone else, another illness, being confided in about a the state of a friends sadness with her marriage, hearing about loss of finances for another, just doing, doing and doing more.

My body and my mind were telling me to say no, to let them know gently that right now I could not be present, I needed to look after me, but the insecurity inside, the part that drives us to try and please everyone, that part won.

So, what will I do next time? will I be able to say no when that person asks that favour? I hope so, even if it will be uncomfortable, even if my brain is rebelling against the words my mouth is speaking, I hope that I will be able to look deep inside, see what I need to do to be my best self, perhaps take on a little less, indulge in some me time, close the curtains, dont rush to answer those phone messages, learn that, hey, you know what, they will find someone else to do that thing that “only you” can do. Have a haircut, massage, nails done, a day away from everyone an everything.

Most of all, tell, tell the person who loves us most that we need to be selfish, if that person is ourselves, or a spouse, parent or friend, tell. We all need appreciation we all need physical and emotional acts of love.

Please take care of you.

Sara.

 

 

Bi Polar and Anxiety

Anxiety is on the rise, we all suffer with it at some point, whether before an job interview, or long journey, we can understand some anxieties, they are considered the “normal” ones, but what happens when anxiety follows you around like an annoying shadow, which no matter how we try to weave, and prance our way around it, it sticks to us wherever we go, whatever we are doing.

It is almost as though there is a little part of the sufferer’s brain especially made called the anxiety pouch, it is there, always there, no matter how busy we are, our minds could be filled with a million other things, yet  the anxiety will still be there.

Carolyn M. Drazinic, MD, PhD, assistant professor in psychiatry, genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington says, “It is very common to see an anxiety disorder coexisting with bipolar disorder”

Experts say that it is not always easy to separate an anxiety disorder diagnosis from a bipolar disorder diagnosis but below are some symptoms which are indicative of both disorders co-occurring.

  • Panic attacks, severe anxiety.
  • Avoiding activities that cause anxiety, while displaying mania, hypomania or depression.
  • Having difficulties sleeping because of anxiety.
  • Showing ongoing anxiety even when not in a manic or hyper manic state.
  • Taking a longer than normal time to find the correct medication dosing and combination for their bipolar.

A panic disorder is an anxiety disorder marked by repeated panic attacks.

Thankfully, my panic attacks have calmed a lot in the recent months, but my health anxieties are at an all time high.

Having long lasting stomach issues, being seen by a number of Dr’s ( who are not overly concerned) and awaiting tests have led me down a path of tremendous anxiety, my “go to” thought process that something is terribly wrong, and the Dr’s have missed it is at the forefront of my mind.

Those of us whom have anxieties will ask for constant, repeated reassurance. Those around us may believe we are being hypochondriac’s, will not understand whey we cant just ” think positive” and will wonder why we need to over dramatize everything.

Having bipolar, combined with anxiety is a daily struggle, from the minute one gets up till they fall in to a usually highly charged/ disturbing dreaming sleep, all that is on your mind is your current health anxiety.

The difference between a person who does not have bipolar and anxiety is huge.  2 people with the same symptoms ( in my case long lasting, 24/7 stomach pain ) will have completely different conversations with themselves.

Person 1:

” This pain is so annoying, it disturbs me every day, I just cant wait for the scan and other tests so I can deal with it, I am a little worried because its so often, but the Dr’s have checked me over and over, they have sent me for tests, if they were overly concerned they would have ordered urgent tests, I will just have to wait and see”

Person 2:

” OMG, I am so sure that the Dr’s have missed something, I am sure when I have the scan they are going to find this huge mass of cancer, so scared, its just not normal to have stomach pain all day every day. What about that story I read on line?? the Dr’s missed something that women had, and so many Dr’s checked her and they all missed her cancer and now she is dying. My friend had a pain in her stomach and its pancreatic cancer, maybe I have that”. I am just terrified, should I go to A&E tonight?? I need to tell people about this so that they can reassure me, ill just text hubby to tell him my stomach is hurting again, and does he think it is something serious? Shall I call an ambulance? No I cant, come-on you know its nothing serious right? No I don’t know that, I am sure they have missed something”.

Ill leave you to work out which conversation is one a person with low anxiety and which is the self conversation a person with high anxiety will have.

Anxiety together with bipolar can cause so much unhappiness and exhaustion, coupled with the obsessive thinking that most people with bipolar tend to have, its overwhelming.

So what to do with our anxiety? how to calm it? Trying to be rational and calm just does not work.  I do not know how to overcome this.

 

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