Anxious??

Hello dear reader.

Its been a while, a part of me has yearned to write, but another part has been taken up with, well, living. Recently though anxiety has been on the forefront of my mind and tonight an invitation and a conversation pushed me to write.

Long ago friendships are those that will last forever, even if you don’t speak for years, only send a WhatsApp once a year or so, and on each of those times promise faithfully that the next year you will meet, e mail, and be super old fashioned and use the telephone. The friendships we have had since school are enduring and time does not erode the depth of them.

The invitation to the Bar Mitzvah in Switzerland landed on my door mat a couple of days ago, and all I can think is “I have to go” “It would be so amazing to reconnect to a friend who is and always has been so dear to me” and “ I know I will ask my other friend from a time oh so long ago if she would like to come on a girly trip with me ”

Then I pause.. the word airplane comes to mind.. my heart drops, it thuds the heavy beat of anxiety, my face falls, how can I even contemplate travelling by airplane? Driving on a motorway, staring white faced out of a speeding trains window is enough to make me switch to full panic mode, the chest pains, the shortness of breath the feeling that surely the car will be involved in a pile up, the train will be in a fatal collision, the panic of travelling by airplane is something I have long avoided.

I speak to hubby, I make him tell me how many flights take off a day throughout the world, how many crash, how much training pilots are given, how does it stay afloat, is there a chance of survival if the plane crashes, how many terrorist attacks have taken place this year on flights… he looks at me in bewilderment and reminds me he is an accountant not a aeronautical engineer.

The anxieties I have now are pretty new, a couple of years at most, the irrational fear of pigeons, of escalates with their yawning mouths, ready to slip you up.

I have thought that I am a severely anxious person, and one quiet day at work, taking one on line self diagnoses anxiety test after another I had labelled myself as severely anxious, unable to move from my bed due to the crippling fear of the world.

Thankfully, I have a very sensible therapist, whom advised me to print out the results and we ran through the questions together, well, it wasn’t very long before I realised with her help that actually I do not wake up in a cold sweat on a daily basis, full of fear and anxiety about the cruel world outside my front door. I am anxious, but no where near as far as Dr Google assured me I was.

So I ask myself, how anxious are we really? There are of course millions of people who suffer crippling anxiety, for whom opening their curtains in the morning is a feat that requires all their inner strength, but for those of us who assume we are highly anxious I think we need to take a step back, observe our surroundings, look at the reality.  How likely is it that I will step on to an escalator and go tumbling down, when was the last time a pigeon launched a ferocious, life endangering attack on me  or anyone… nope never opened a newspaper to the headline ” The country is on high alert as pigeons go on the attack”

The last few weeks I have come in to contact with some severely ill people, people who do not know the direction their life will take, who do not know what tomorrow holds, and have been inspired by them, by their determination, by their strength. I look at them and realise, that our lives are to short to be driven by anxieties. We control some of our destiny, we can take control of the things that are stopping us for living the life we should be.

I will endeavour to get on that plane, I will not look out the window, maybe I will take a tranquiliser or have a drink or 10 but if it is meant to be..I will be in Switzerland in a few weeks!

Chuss and have a great night.

Sara x

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.

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

The roundabout

Yup 2 posts in one night , but as the picture above so aptly states sometimes you just have to write it down.

Ear worm , a word I recently heard describes those times when you have that song stuck in your head and it goes round and round and round … replacing it with another song is usually the only way to get it out of your head.

Now imagine that it was not a song but thoughts of that off hand remark someone said, or something you said , or your health, or whether or not your husband loves you.

There are many studies which give a direct connection with obsessive thinking and Bi Polar . It’s an accepted fact in the mental health world that People with Bi Polar will often obsess about anything and everything.

Some examples, my husband doesn’t answer his phone when I know he is on his lunch hour, the thoughts begin, is he with a female colleague, is he having an affair , by the time he calls me back 10 minutes later my mind is already throwing his clothes out the door, convinced he is having an affair.

Having obsessive thinking with Bi Polar is like being on a constant daily roundabout. It’s not a matter of  will I obsess about something, but more a matter of what today’s obsession will be.

Often it is harmless, getting the house in perfect order, being the best I can be at work, making the perfect meal .

Mainly though it is not healthy. For example today. A few weeks ago someone said a harmless comment to me, it was a comment meant to help me, it was during a conversation in which she was guiding and supporting me, but because of my Bi Polar and because of my obsessive thinking it was all I could think of today and for quite a few days.

The obsessive thinking will lead you in a direction that you have little or no control over, googling the person , bringing them up in conversation etc.

It can affect your daily life, it is exhausting.

I am used to being told I am ” over sensitive ” a word which I have come to hate … I do not think anyone can be over sensitive, everyone has their own fragility, everyone is insecure about something and we don’t know if the comment made can touch that person deeply , for the good or bad.

I know I am having a good Bi Polar day when thoughts flow seamlessly from one to the other, obsessions only last for a little while and they can be replaced.

Today is a bad Bi Polar day, where an obsession about someone has stayed with me for to long.

Whilst having these obsessions all other clear thinking goes out the window, you are unable to concentrate on anything.

So how do people who have bi Polar related obsessive thinking get off the roundabout ? How when it is turning faster and faster, when your brain is completely overrun with the one thought do you stop, do you shout ” I want to get off “!

For a lot of people quiet time works ,lying still , with relaxing music on, just listening to your breathing . This has been the go to for a lot of people.

For me lying still is not an option, if I were lying still the roundabout would go faster and faster.

With my form of this thinking I need to firstly if I am able to talk to the person or write … and I have now done both.

 

Deep breath… relax …

 

 

 

 

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