Mental Health Awareness Day.

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day.

From a personal view every day is mental health awareness day, and not only for me, but for the millions of people who live with a mental health condition.

It is an admirable endeavor, creating a day focused on Mental Health Awareness, but I find the similarities to other times where awareness is heightened and then forgotten about are clear, take Christmas for example where homelessness is the big “thing”, organizations like Shelter campaign tirelessly for the homeless, adverts tell us that £20 can pay for a meal, clothes and a shower for those on the streets, and then, Christmas comes and goes and those campaigns are forgotten about until the next year.

The same goes with Mental Health awareness, in one day we will all experience mental health in some form, whether it is healthy, positive mental health or unhealthy, developing in to illness, or need for some form of psychiatric help.

To a large extent unless a family member/community member/dr or friend takes action when someone’s mental health is suffering a person can go through incredible pain emotionally and physically, the age old stigma we have all heard, when discussing mental health sadly still applies, “why is mental health treated any differently to physical health” we all know that saying, we have probably used it in some form ourselves, yet the stigma is still strong, in fact I have been told not to write about mental health, to keep it quiet, as it is a shameful secret, and I wonder, and ask myself why, why after all these years, with all the information, mental health organizations, and awareness days is it still a shameful secret?

There are positive aspects though, and one of those is the organization I work for JAMI. JAMI is an organization focused on Mental Health Recovery, it focuses on the positive, the recovery rather than the negative. We have social workers, Occupational therapists, benefit advisors, support groups and so much more. I am honored to work for an organization where I see on daily basis clients arriving, feeling welcomed, knowing that no one will judge them, no one will view them as “different”, where people are treated with the respect all humans are entitled to.
It is an honor to work for an organization such as JAMI, and I have learned so much through my position here, I have learned that deep down we are all the same, we all crave care and love and respect for who we are.
Each person who comes through the door at JAMI know they are wanted and welcomed, no matter what stage of mental health they are at.
Mental Health awareness day is of course a necessity but until we all are able to stand up, be counted and accept our own and others mental health, there is still a long way to go.

Fighting it

Right now I’m fighting.

Fighting with my brain.

I managed almost a year with no episodes, the longest I have ever gone since being diagnosed.

Last night, out of the blue I had an episode, there were no warnings, my train of thought had been stable with no hint of mania or rapid thoughts, there was nothing  out of the ordinary to give me a chance to get home, get the help I know I need when I’m about to have an episode, take more medication and sleep it out.

This snuck up on me, though I should have realised as I wrote my last blog on therapy anxiety that writing about my therapist often means my Bi Polar monster is  yawning and stretching, getting ready to do battle with me, the obsessive thinking about my therapist , the googling her name etc… all classic warning signs, except there were no other signs, it hit me full force, one minute I was in the kitchen, doing what I needed to, next minute I was pacing up and down the bedroom freaking out on the phone to my 2 people who are my “ go to” when I’m unwell about the blinking cow that the meat I had just opened came from, now I’m a meat lover, could never actually be vegetarian!!  Give me meat anytime of the day and I’m your friend for life , so me freaking about the cow was super odd.

My episode only lasted an hour or two.

As I wrote in my blog my Bi Polar has changed . Last night it came on suddenly and just as suddenly receeded, I did not need to take an extra dose of meds or call a psychiatrist.

Today there are those thoughts, racing, irrational thinking but I am constantly, every minute fighting it and WILL NOT let it beat me!

My stratagies are

Keep busy

sleep

eat

relax

read

Acknowledge  the thoughts and then let them go.

I would  be really interested in hearing your strategies are ? How do you, when you know your thinking isn’t right, stop a full blown episode happening ?

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

 

 

The change in my BiPolar

This month has been stressful, there have been good times, as I write this we are on the journey home from our holiday which we timed to coincide with a family Bar Mitzvah in the town we holidayed in, the holiday was lovely and relaxing , countering the stress I had been experiencing during the last few weeks.

In a  recent previous blog,  I wrote about the time of the year my son was born and passed away and my feelings surrounding that time, I have also written previously about my daughter, my beautiful girl who has not lived with me for 10 years now.

For as long as I remember I would expect, even anticipate a BiPolar episode, usually starting during a stressful period, to occur when my daughter visited, time of the year my baby had died etc, starting with the racing thoughts, the brain battle of little green monster fighting his way through, gradually spreading his claws throughout my brain, making me think and act in a manic/ hyper way, sometimes subsiding after a very short time but other times completely taking over to the extent that I believe I am on an incredibly important mission, am the queen, try to book tickets across the world and so much more, usually followed by the saddest, most intensely disturbing thoughts , leading me to find myself racing around a cemetery in a complete panic or believing  that people wanted to hurt me.

So. What’s changed ? Why during the last 8 weeks, when I became very ill, had the anniversary of my baby’s death , had my daughter visit and more have I not had an episode ? What has changed that has stopped me from even having an inkling of green monster rearing his ugly head?

I believe it is a combination of things, and I wonder how many others with BiPolar disorder can relate to this.

A few months ago I had something called EMDR to deal and come to terms with some horrendous things that I had sudden memories of, things which had stayed hidden in the deepest storeroom of my mind for so many years, EMDR has been one of the most difficult kinds of therapy I have been in, but having reached the other side it has been a journey of self discovery and learned strength, it has changed the way I feel about aspects of my life and journey.

It was suggested to me that my BiPolar was trauma based, and I do believe that to be true now.

The second part of the recent lack of manic episodes is the fact of having a fullfilling job which I love and one in which I  feel I am giving back to society.

Having a stable life and minimising my episodes is  goal I have always strived for, I know I still think in a certain way, the obsessive thoughts, the high anxiety about the world in general, the low self esteem etc.

I do feel that seeking the root of where a persons BiPolar started could help to lessen  the symptoms in a big way.

No, I do not think my BiPolar has gone and i know it will always be there. So I will keep taking my meds and hoping that another Episode will not occur but now I have the strength to overcome it.

“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

 

 

 

 

 

speaking of statistics

I know some people when writing their blogs like to research their chosen subject, quote facts, figures and statistics, but in general I like to write from the heart, my own words and thoughts, which is why, there may be a few  grammatical errors and spelling mistakes ( I do check and re check my writing, but it has been mentioned that I miss some at times sorry folks) but this evening the urge compelled me to hop on to Professor Google and acquire some facts and figures, and here my dear readers is what I have learned.

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) ” One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”
  • Currently, more than 33% of countries allocate less than 1% of their total health budgets to mental health, with another 33% spending just 1% of their budgets on mental health. A limited range of medicines is sufficient to treat the majority of mental disorders. About 25% of countries, however, do not have the three most commonly prescribed drugs used to treat schizophrenia, depression and epilepsy at the primary health care level. There is only one psychiatrist per 100 000 people in over half the countries in the world, and 40% of countries have less than one hospital bed reserved for mental disorders per 10 000 people.
  • According to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) “Mental health problems account for almost a quarter of the total burden of illness in this country – more than either cancer or heart disease – and one in four of us will experience at least one such condition in our lives.Amongst the most common mental health conditions people seek treatment for are depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic attacks.
  • The British Journal of Psychiatry writes the following ” There is evidence that the vast majority of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their death, and up to a third have had recent contact with mental health services (Foster et al, 1997). For the latter group, the period of greatest risk for suicide is in the first few weeks following discharge from hospital. Data on over 2000 suicides among people in contact with mental health services from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide reveal that a quarter of all deaths occur within the first 3 months of discharge from psychiatric hospital (Appleby et al, 1999b). It is estimated that almost 1% of those discharged from in-patient psychiatric care will kill themselves in the year following their discharge (Goldacre et al, 1993). Such deaths account for 10% of all suicides in the UK (Lewis et al, 1997). The rate of suicide is highest in the first few days after discharge from hospital, with 41% occurring before the first follow-up appointment (Appleby et al, 1999a).The relationship between admission to hospital and suicide has been studied in greater detail among people with schizophrenia. Rossau & Mortensen (1997) examined the characteristics of 508 people who were admitted to hospital for treatment of first-episode schizophrenia in Denmark between 1970 and 1987. The rate of suicide was found to be highest in the 6 months following admission to hospital. It was higher following the first admission to hospital than following subsequent admissions and was also noted to be higher after discharge from general medical and surgical wards.

Everything I have read tonight has made me ponder, where are we going wrong? why are the provisions for Mental Health issues so poor, the care so dire that we have a third of people who commit suicide being in contact with Mental Health services up to 3 months before?

Even if we bring the stigma and lack of understanding of Mental Health in to play surely medical science has developed to a level where Dr’s ranging from professors to GP’s would have a basic understanding of how the mind works?

I feel, having experienced first hand the travesty that is Mental Health Services it all starts with the hospital, if hospitals were better staffed, If hospital staff were better trained, qualified mental health professionals the lives of those suffering would be so much more valued.

My last hospital admission was approx. 2.5 years ago, the room was covered in filth, bed sheets stained, the staff were cold, distant people, who carried themselves with the arrogance of one who knows he has all the power, one member of staff would sit with us, and bemoan her lot in life, telling us (the patients) how she hated her job, we were treated as subhuman, people would have to beg to talk to a staff member, to be taken out for a cigarette ( the only joy that some in the ward had) or to see a DR.

Of course some hospitals are better than others, but the fact remains, even if a Psych ward does not look like a prison, even if the doors do not have bars on, even if they can go for a walk (accompanied ), have visitors, bring in their own items from home ( most of which are confiscated on arrival) they are not an equal, their illness is not seen in the same way as for example a cancer patient is seen.

 

Until Psychiatirc issues are addressed by government and the funds poured into resarch and development the amount of people suffering with mental Health issues will keep growing, and the age range will widen.

Until Psych wards are run with the respect, cleanliness, care and kindness that is a must in any other hospital, nothing will change, people will leave a ward and do as a girl I was once in hospital with… walk to the nearest train station and jump on the tracks, people will still suffer in silence, until, at their darkest moment they will jump.

 

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