New year, New Anxiety

Anxiety seems to be the flavour of the month.

My Anxiety levels have shot through the roof over the last few weeks.

It is an interesting thing anxiety, as I have got older and had a child new, random worries pop in to my head, and create a nice cosy living space in my mind, settling down, rearing up and stretching at different times, for example a couple of my new anxieties include, pigeons, the sly creatures.. they hide out, under cars, behind dustbins and in trees and then swoop down when you are least expecting.  Escalators, oooo escalators are pure evil, I imagine a hook nose professor, deep underground in his cave, cackling and rubbing his hands together with glee as he invented them, they loom up, mocking you, daring you to step on, go down in to the abyss.

Right now, with the Jewish New Year having just passed, and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar arriving ( Day of Atonement) anxiety levels are sky high, which, considering its all happening up in the sky for the big man is quite appropriate.

God-of-Miracles

The Jewish New Year is vastly different to New Year in the traditional sense, we pray, a lot… a very lot, we eat, then we pray some more, on the day of atonement the order of the day is to stand in Synagogue from morning till night and pray for forgiveness for our transgressions, and that we be blessed with whatever our heart believes we need.

Around Christmas and New Year worldwide, suicide levels rise, anxiety soars and behind closed doors people cry, cry out of loneliness, cry due to their financial situation which can stop someone being able to fully enjoy the day, people cry for those they have lost, and those they ache to be with at a time where family and friendship is all around us.

 

close up of girl covering face
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

New beginning’s are so hard, children find it hard to adjust to going back to school after a long holiday and adults struggle with a forgotten routine, if we add to that the stress of knowing that we stand before God on Rosh Hashana ( the head of the year) and Yom Kippur ( Day of atonement ) it can be overwhelming.

My anxieties are rampant, how much bad have I done this year? how many laws did I break, who did I gossip about, who did I hurt, will those scales in heaven tip in my favour, will it be a productive, healthy year and the list goes on and on.

Bipolar in general does bring with it anxieties, people who have Bipolar tend to become anxious, and have, in addition to Bipolar, general anxiety disorder, so I know I need to keep an eye on the manic thoughts.

There is a concept of Jewish Guilt, we feel it all the time, I know people who have left the religion who still feel guilt years later when living their lives in a secular way.

The guilt is overwhelming, the fear ( even though I truly believe God is loving and wants the best for us) of anything and everything is eating me up and wearing me down.

Wishing one and all an anxiety free, peaceful , healthy in both mind and body new year .

Lots of love

Sara

 

Therapy anxiety .. Just another anxiety ?

Therapy anxiety is not something I have thought about in any great detail in the past, we’ll that is until I realised I had it! Actually  I think I will have a quick google now and see if the concept exists .. ( BRB )

I’m back. My search resulted in millions of hits for therapy assisting with anxiety but I could not find one site with therapy anxiety as the subject.

Anxiety in general is debilitating, it can cause a person to become a hermit in so many ways, when I was a child there seemed to be a lot less to be anxious about, or maybe I was just clueless. Drugs, terrorisim, etc are massive stress factors.

So, Therapy anxiety, what is it . A therapist often has more in-depth knowledge of a client then their family, friends, colleagues may have . No one goes to a therapist to discuss the weather or what they eat for lunch that day. Therapy is heavy stuff, it takes courage, it takes exposing your most vulnerable insecurities, your soul is laid bare in front of another person.

The relationship is pretty much one sided, of course I know that a good therapist cares about her clients and truly wishes to assist with recovery of mental wellness in any way they can. But being so one sided brings up so many emotions.

Example, today I took my child to see my therapist, my therapist works with children and my child needed help. Before we left home I made sure my child’s : hair was brushed and neat. Clothes were clean . Teeth brushed. Hands washed and on and on ! Because I care so much how  my  therapist, knowing the insecurities I have about motherhood would view me as a mother .

Before I see my therapist I make sure I look ok . I often leave her hoping that she likes me, wonder what she thinks about me.

When we have a session where nothing major comes up, and it’s just day to day worries that are discussed, I worry that she feels I’m not worth her time or care as much as other clients , I worry that she thinks I am wasting her time, and I worry that she would not want to see me anymore. I worry that she thinks I am fat , I worry if my nails are not done and on and on.

I hear you ask, is this what therapy should be? How can it be helpful if you are this anxious about it, and isn’t it just adding to the so many anxieties you already have ?

The answer, I believe that a lot of people who are in long term therapy have these worries, but you, if you do have therapy anxiety know that the positives, the work towards building you as a confident, emotionally healthy person, the care shown by any good therapist outweighs the anxiety to a huge extent.

So, if your experiencing my new term ( which I will make sure is added to the Oxford dictionary!) Therapy anxiety know that you are not alone !

Lots of love

Sara

Religion, mental health, leaving the path and more….

The subject of a direct link between a person suffering a mental health issue, and religion ( the orthodox way of practicing religion)  has always fascinated me.  In the Jewish religion, especially amongst teenagers, a vast number of people whom have a form of a psychriatric illness are leaving religion.

The close knit community I live in is an orthodox one, one where you follow the rules, you dress the same or similar to what is considered the “norm”, you know your neighbours, their family, the school they send to and the synagogue they attend, and a whole lot of judgements are presumed based on the above.   This is in no way a criticism, it is a fact of community, all small communities have their norms and this is just how it is in ours.

For those who find abiding by cultural norms, and are able to follow the unwritten rules this lifestyle can provide great comfort, you know where you stand, you know your role, you fit in, you will feel loved, accepted and can gain immensely from fitting in. But, what happens to those who don’t? what happens to those who despite being raised in a orthodox close knit community feel the need to break free? Feel stifled and caged by the laws and rules that they are born in to? Those who have perhaps been raised in a strict, cold home where following the rules is of utmost importance, and the ability to express any individuality is frowned upon. We live in a world where knowledge is just a click away, any child who wishes to know about the world around them just need to ask a computer, and if raised in a home where questions are frowned upon, where answers, love and warmth are not given readily the questions become secrets, secrets become lies, lies become anxiety and mental health is a downward spiral.

Religion can be a beautiful, wonderful way of life, it can bring stability and warmth, knowing that at any stage of life those around you will be there, by your side, helping, supporting you in any way you need.  I also believe that serving God, to the best of our abilities can be uplifting and provide a life of happiness and love. The Mitzvot (commandments) make sense, the laws are given for our benefit.  Women are not (contrary to popular opinion!) tied to the sink, downtrodden and belittled in Judaism, rather our role is so diverse, and we (sorry guys!) do have all the power!!

We live in a time where more and more teenagers and adults are opening up to others, bringing to light sexual abuse, sexual abuse which was not so long ago an hidden, horrendous and forbidden secret, many people in their 40’s, older and much younger are having memories, or strong desires to finally see their perpetrators bought to answer for their perverse and sickening crimes, when the perpetrator has been an orthodox person, or in some cases a Rabbi, a leader of the community, the victim is full of anger, and that anger is directed to the community, the religion and God, as the person who carried out their sickening desires seems or seemed like a man of God therefore it follows that people who follow this persons God are just like him, and mental health issues arise, upon remembering or opening up, or even keeping the secret inside, boiling over and over follow.

A person suffering a mental health issue in the community, has so much to loose, their siblings shunned by matchmakers, the family shamed and more, although the secret of mental health is slowly being talked about and accepted in communities more readily there is a long way to go, so a person who may have anxiety will have the added burden of keeping it a secret, leading to anger, depression and sometimes suicide, by leaving the community and becoming secular they are more free to express themselves in a way they feel is right for them.

So, why are teenagers and adults, especially those with mental health issues leaving the religion.  Below are some interesting points I came across, whilst researching the link between religion and mental health:

“Early 20th-century interest in religion and mental health was sparked by Freud’s view of religion as intrinsically neurotic. Freud described religion and its rituals as a collective neurosis, which, he suggested, could save a person the effort of forming an individual neurosis. For example, in an early paper, Freud (1907/1924) spelt out the similarities between religious rituals and obsessional rituals. He argued that guilt is created when rituals are not carried out, and assuaged when they are, so a self-perpetuating ‘ritualaholic’ cycle is set up.”

From the above, we can assume Freud was not a admirer of religion, and prescribed rituals, the guilt a person feels, when struggling with religion, when having questions about the way they were raised, questions concerning God and Judaism brings with it guilt, which in turn can bring with it mental health issues.

The way we are raised, how we are taught about God goes a  long way to either enrich or demean our mental health, is God a loving, forgiving one, has He put us here for our own benefit or for His? Does he really exist, what is our role in the world, etc. all these questions and the way we seek out answers go a long way in assuring we have positive mental health.

The below paragraph spoke volumes to me:

Religious factors, it has been suggested, are not always beneficial (Loewenthal, 2007; Pargament, 1997). For example, those who believe in a punishing God tend to have poorer mental health outcomes than those who believe in a benign, supportive God. However, some common suspicions about the harmful effects of religion have not always been borne out. For example it has been suggested that religion often fosters guilt, and this may serve to raise levels of anxiety, depression and obsessionality. Empirically, the effects are not so straightforward. True, generally there is an association between religiosity and measures of guilt and obsessionality, particularly in religious traditions that encourage scrupulous detailed observance, such as some forms of Roman Catholicism, Judaism and Islam. However, measures of guilt do not predict anxiety and depression, and measures of religiosity do not predict clinical obsessionality (obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD) (Lewis, 1998). Greenberg and Witztum (2001), in their studies of OCD among orthodox Jews, concluded that religion offers ways of expressing the disorder, but does not in itself foster the disorder.

Living according to the strictest of rules can therefore bring with it guilt, which results in many different mental health issues, but, if we live with these rules through love and devotion, in a positive way, realising that God is there for us, and guilt should not be a deciding factor surely our lives would be enriched.

Lastly, having been in the psychiatric ward, a huge part of people leaving religious lifestyles is living with people who to the day you entered the ward, have been aliens to you,  a strictly observant teen or adult may never have encountered the outside world, may never have spoken to anyone outside of their faith, met people who can dress how they wish, eat what they wish, see what they desire, and speak freely, to a vulnerable person, whom may not get many visitors, may not feel supported by the community due to the secrecy of the nature of their illness this life seems an answer to everything, the anger they feel towards those living close to them, and leading an observant life, is shown by leaving the community, publicly dressing and acting in a way they know will be shameful to their family and community, usually though they are crying out for acceptance and love.

Lots of love

Sara

 

 

“as mad as a hatter”

Those were the words a gentlemen used when describing a person with a mental health issue. To put it in to context, we recently joined a family we know for a meal, the subject turned to work, and on explaining that I work for a mental health charity and describing what we do, the conversation moved on to treatment and recovery, at which point  the gentlemen proclaimed ” who would want to marry someone who is as mad as a hatter”.

Those who know me will know that I do not hold back, if I am upset, angry, happy, surprised, nervous and so on it will pretty obvious, so for me not to answer his statement without literally leaving my chair, climbing across the table, knife in hand, snarling like a rabid dog was pretty impressive. Instead I tried to calmly explain that people ( like myself, except I did not tell him that as he would probably have started crying, terrified what the crazy lady at the table was capable of) who have mental health issues are in fact the same as every other person, that mental health issues, and physical health issues are cared for with medication, lifestyle and therapy, sadly though he could not grasp the concept and I do not believe he will ever change his views.

If I had the inclination or time this is what I would have told him.

People with Bi Polar do not, as a matter of course, drive planes in to mountains.

The chances of a person experiencing either a manic high or low hurting anyone else besides for themselves are nearly zero, we are more likely to self harm.

We live full, interesting and stable lives, just like anyone else.

You do not need to walk on eggshells around us, we will not collapse if you hurt our feelings.

A person with a mental health issue, can go years without a relapse or hospital admission.

Yes we may need to take medication, but hey, who doesn’t for one reason or another.

Because of our mental health issue, we are usually stronger and kinder people as we have seen and heard things a lot of people would not.

When we are unwell, we can appear to have super confidence ( when manic), talk very quickly, have illusions of grandeur, and put ourselves in extreme danger, as we are at our most vulnerable, we may loose sight of reality, this does not mean we are as mad as a hatter, it means we are unwell.

Please do not compare as a girl I was recently with did a person feeling low, or having a bad day to a person who is having a period of full blown depression or Bi Polar low, there is no comparison to make.

Do not say as an off hand remark “your so OCD” or even say it about yourself, you have no idea what it is to actually have OCD.

Its not ok to call people mental, it is the same as calling someone who has lost all their hair due to cancer baldy or something similar.

Realise you, or your family members can all develop a mental health issue, just like they can develop any other kind of illness.

Until people stop being afraid of us, until mental health can become a topic that no one is afraid to talk about, no one is “put of” by a persons mental health history nothing will change.

When someone has a physical illness people rush to assist, with meals, hospital visits, help with the children etc, it should be the same with mental illness, yes, it can be scary visiting a psychiatric ward, but as I know to well, the people there are suffering, afraid, and feel alone.

Finally, we are not mad, we are not crazy, we are you, we are us.

Lots of love

Sara

 

 

 

 

 

The loneliness Minister. Tragedy or necessity ?

Big news today, Tracey Crouch was appointed as Loneliness minister.

Her job? To tackle an issue facing around nine million people in the U K , both young and old.

Look back to the 1950’s would there have been a need for a minister, appointed by the Prime Minister specially to tackle loneliness? Not that I remember….but look at any pictures of those days, or even better watch Call the Midwife and we see neighbours hanging out washing together, we see children playing in the streets , we see Dr’s doing house calls, we see the milkman knowing the life story of his customers, we see community. Obviously life in the 50’s was not perfect, poverty was the norm, but then, pretty much everyone in the community was poor so you did not feel different.

How have we gone from a nation of people who would notice if they did not see their neighbour for a day or two, to a nation where a people do not leave their house for weeks on end and no one notices?

The BBC writes today ” A 2017 report said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” ” An estimated half of people aged 75 and over live alone – about two million people across England – with many saying they can go days, even weeks, with no social interaction at all.”

Loneliness amongst the elderly has been an ongoing issue, which I think people in general are aware of, and slowly more is being done, the spare chair Sunday initiative launched in 2015 encouraged people to open their home to an elderly guest and invite them for a warm and delicious lunch. There are many more befriending agencies then in the past but sadly there is still a long way to go, with library’s and social clubs closing due to lack of funding, children moving further and further away from their parents home, friends and partners passing away, and inability to access transport needs the elderly are finding themselves more isolated then ever before. last year, Charity WRVS warned that more then 360,000 older people felt lonely because their children were too far away and too busy to see them.

It just takes a minute, knock on the door of an elderly neighbour and ask if they are ok.

I wanted to write about loneliness in younger people. research by the Mental Health Foundation found that social media is fuelling isolation among young people. From personal experience, using Wats App has affected my social interaction in a huge way, my husband often gets exasperated when I have a whole conversation through voice message rather than picking up the phone and talking to someone.  Facebook is a world of likes and dislikes, to the extent that a young person putting up messages that she is about to commit suicide will get liked, rather then anyone actually connecting with her and having a conversation.

At every age a person can get lonely, we may be an aging population but we are also getting more and more alone, we need not go the shops, they will come to us, we need not talk to anyone, we need not leave our home.

A young mother for example, staying home with her baby, unable to go out for long due to her babies needs can find her mental health deteriorating at an alarming rate, the need to put on a smile, paint the mask of being a capable, in control parent when going out due to fear of being judged as not coping will become more and more isolated, whilst her single friends are out, working, socialising she is alone.

A stay at home or single dad may find that any groups he does want to go to are overrun with women and feels isolated.

So what to do?

For some people, opening the curtains in the morning is the first step, and a massively positive first step.  taking that scary first step can lead to more and more baby steps, to feel the fear and do it anyway, to give yourself a pat on the back for the smallest of things, can slowly bring about a positive change.

I have heard of people adopting a dog or cat, animals can bring comfort beyond measure.

whatever a person is interested there is something that they can get involved with, for example I love writing, doing a quick search in my area for creative writing groups I am directed to a local café holding open mic nights, and writing and sharing groups. If biking is your thing, there are cycling groups in most areas. interested in Art? do a search of groups in your area.

Volunteering is an amazing way to feel less alone, volunteers are an integral part of the Charity I work at.  There are so many different ways to volunteer that can change a persons life for the better drastically.

Community, though community can at times be suffocating being involved in your community can help combat loneliness. Your local synagogue, church etc. may be able to provide opportunities for you. Another aspect of community is right there in your street, it takes courage to knock on a door of a stranger, but you never know, the person behind the door next to you may be lonely to, they may be hoping that you will take the step and knock on their door.

One last thing, through any kind of group, workshop or volunteering opportunity make a friend, even if it is only one friend, that is all you need for the times when the desperation to have human contact is at its biggest. A friend can bring so much to a persons life.

All the above can sound like a mountain to someone who is alone and afraid, but take the one step, open the curtains, google a group, knock on the door, and every step you take however tiny give yourself credit, you deserve it.

lots of love

Sara

At the park.

I remember, many  years ago standing in a local park, recently divorced, my mental health on a downward spiral, heading towards a devastating nervous breakdown which changed my life for ever, with my then toddler, around me were other mums, huddled in a tight group, they were young mums, the perfect hairdo’s, the perfect buggies, the perfect clothing on their children, perfect nails, perfect bodies..in fact I remember thinking, they were everything I was not, (even though at that time I had for the once and only time in my life…a pretty perfect body!)

The loneliness I felt then will stay with me forever, as I sat, a good 10-20 years older then these girls with my life falling apart I did not know what was to come, I did not know that one day after much heartbreak and trauma I would come back to this park with another toddler and be the one huddled in a group laughing and joking with other mothers ( though our bodies may not be perfect we all think our kids perfection pretty much makes up for  it!)

So I want to talk about loneliness, about how debilitating and harmful it can be. I am feeling lonely right now, it started about a week ago, in the exact same park, on the exact same bench. As I sat looking around it seemed I was completely alone, I felt no one could reach me, no one would connect with me and an overwhelming sadness enveloped me, one which I still have not been able to shake off completly.

I have a wonderful, supportive, caring husband who is my best friend. I have a large family, filled with nieces and nephews of all ages, I have friends and aquantanes, my friends are like a second family to me and I love them all to bits, so I question myself, why do I feel lonely?

I keep on asking myself this question, and have come to the realisation that no matter how many people we have, sometimes we need people to be there for us, and not us for them, this may sound cruel, this may sound selfish, but when you give, and you give the giving will eventually come crashing down around your shoulders and you will be exhausted.

A very sensible person who I hold in the highest esteem often tells me to be mindful of my edge, we all have our edges, that point of no return, when we constantly do for others, and by saying yes to them we say no to others, for example our families or ourselves.

I have learnt that we can be surrounded, we can know deep down that  we are loved and valued and cherished, but unless those around us remind us, show us our value to them, show us they are grateful we can get lonely, so very lonely and so very tired.

As I have experienced the pain of looking outward and feeling sadness so very deeply inside,I have learned to do a few things, when I go to a park, if there is someone sitting alone, I will try to sit with them and strike up conversation, we never know just what a few words can do. I once heard a great story, there was this postman, every day for years he delivered his letters in the same area, no one noticed him, it was almost like he was an invisable part of their existence, the letters dropped on the mat as if by magic, for years he walked his lonely route. One day as he was dropping a letter through a door, it opened, there stood an elderly lady, she smiled at him and started to talk ” For years you have been delivering my post, I see you daily, yet I realise I have never once said thank you, if not for you I would not have so much of what I have now, the letters I hold so dear to my heart from friends who have now departed this world, so thank you sir from the bottom of my heart, I want you to know you are appreciated” . The postman put his bag down and hugged the elderly lady, he wiped his eyes and he said ” Today, I decided that this would be my last day on earth, I am so very lonely and have felt that my life is not worth living anymore, no one notices me, no one would care if I lived or if I died, and so I planned to do one more route just to say farewell in my own way and then go home and take an overdose, you, have just saved my life, you have given me the strength to know that I am appreciated, you have noticed me, and because of you I will not be taking my life today” … now whether this is a true story or not does not matter, what matters is, that we notice those who are invisable to us and let them know we see them.

When I am at a wedding, a party, anywhere I try to notice those who are alone and make a point of talking to them, and the reason I do this is because I have been one of those invisable people, a while back I went to a synagogue I have never been to before, I sat down, smiled at the lady next to me and complimented her on her head scarf, the pain and hurt I felt when she looked me up and down and then turned her back on me was physical, it took my breath away. Are we so shallow that we will only talk to someone who looks the same as us? dresses the same way as us? goes to the same kind of school we send our children to? makes as much money as us? Do we want to be those people who turn our backs and make someone who may be crying inside for just one person to notice her give up?

Today I had a client, and elderly lady who has no children, she threw her arms around me as I walked in to the door, telling me she had not seen or spoken to anyone for 4 days…! How does this happen, in a society where we are in constant 24/7 contact with anyone we want?  Are we surprised that the  people who turn to Facebook, Instagram, snap chat etc to post every detail of their lives and usually the most lonely? Or do we have to realise that it is those people who feel the most invisible, they are crying out to be noticed, but sadly they are only noticed on a screen and not as a person. How many stories do we hear regarding teenagers, who post on Facebook messages asking for help, putting pictures up stating they are about to kill themselves, yet we look, we stare, we shake our heads and mutter “not my problem”

The world now has more means of communication then ever before, yet we live in a time where loneliness is at a higher rate then ever before. I think its time we rethink our priorities.

Lots of love

Sara

 

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