In The Genes?

I rarely write about my big girl, my 18-year-old, if you have read my previous blogs you may be aware that she has not lived with me for 11 years now, it has been a hard slog to get to the point where we are now, that she has made the journey alone to come and visit is something I have waited many a year to happen, and I never thought it would.

My daughter has complex needs, at 18 she finds general life hard to cope with, going shopping is an extremely difficult thing for her to do, her self-esteem, her nervousness due to being unable to count change or follow a shopping list, makes day-to-day life a struggle. Until recently she was unable to take a bus alone.

She has in the past self harmed, and at one desperately low point, made an attempt to take her own life, thankfully it was a feeble attempt, more a cry for help and attention then having thought it through.

My daughter’s diagnoses is still a mystery to me, perhaps on the autistic spectrum, definitely  some severe mental health issues.

She struggled for years through the school system, could never keep up with the work and had little or no friends.

For many years, and still today I hold myself partly to blame for the person she has become and the struggles she faces, even if I am told over and over, even if I rationalise with myself that even if she had been bought up in a stable environment she may still have difficulties I still hold myself partly to blame. When she was a very young child I became very ill (mentally) and she lived with a family member following my divorce from her father, living there, even as a small child she was always aware of her difference, knew she was not one of them, she then went to live with my ex and his new wife, again she felt that they to would reject her, they tried their best but sadly the professional help and support both she and they needed did not arrive for many years, by then the damage had been done. Over the years people have asked me why I did not go to court, why would I sit back and let her live with my ex in another town, seeing her only every 4 months or so, just for a day trip.  I did not have a choice, from the very beginning at a time I was unable to care for myself let alone my daughter I was told this was the best for her.  Due to my mental health decline,  I knew that if I had indeed gone to court to fight for custody I would not stand a chance. There have been so many times that I wanted with all my heart and soul to grab my daughter and run away with her, but I have known that she can not handle change, that it was best for her to stay there, and so for 11 years I have put my own pain and hurt aside and have done what all parents would hopefully naturally do, the best for the our children.

Around a year ago, after a drastic few months when my daughter walked in to a main road in the hope of being knocked over, she was finally accepted and funding was found for a specialist college, a place where each student is given the chance to be the best person they can, gardening, music, life skills, making mugs, bags etc to sell are all part of the daily timetable, for the first time in her difficult life, she is happy, she feels in her own words ” she has come home” when attending college, she is also the most able in the college which has contributed to her self esteem slightly rising.

Today, as always when she leaves I am full of a heavy sadness, saying goodbye to her, after spending just over 24 hours with her its always painful.

she has been on medication for a while now, after a bout of self harm her step mum realised she needed to be on medication and thankfully it is helping, but I see myself in her in so many ways, last night she noticed a book I have on Bipolar and she asked me to get it for her as her Dr has begun to suspect she may have it.

It was a mixture of relief and sadness for her when she told me this, relief that finally things may start making sense for her, and sadness that I have passed my mental health issue to her.

I have written a blog re Bipolar and obsessive thinking, and this was confirmed for me during a conversation with her, she explained to me that she went through a period of not sleeping, not eating, crying non stop as she struggled with obsessively thinking about a boy in her college, she could not concentrate on her lessons, she began to self harm again.  It was as if I was hearing someone describe my thought process when having an episode of obsessive thinking.

Whilst the pain for her is still there, so is the hope for her, the fact that she has a diagnoses, the way she thinks and acts explained via the Bipolar “label” will eventually make her life a lot easier, she has the advantage of knowledge so young, and even though it is not something any average 18-year-old would want for themselves for her it has given her courage, she can accept her diagnoses, and work with the experts to encourage her to lead the best life she can.

Interestingly, it has given me a sense of closeness to her that I did not have before, it is sad for her that she has experienced in her life so much pain and suffering, but I can now help her, through my lived experience of bipolar I can help her, empathise with her, know that with the correct help and treatment there is no reason she should not live a happy, fulfilling life.

How I wish that my daughter did not have any mental health issues, that she would never have to struggle with her thoughts and feelings, that her self-esteem was high, that she sees what I see, a beautiful young lady with so much to give, a girl who has a bond with children whom have special needs, a teenager who has had to fight for everything and has accomplished so much ( for example teaching herself sign language so as to be able to converse with a little girl she looks after, something she hopes to continue doing and eventually having a profession as a sign language interpreter in a hospital etc), but as she grows I see a positive future for her.

Till recently having a diagnoses of a mental heath disorder such as bipolar was a shameful secret, but now, I see how happy she is to have been given an explanation of how her mind works, and this is an attitude we can all take a lesson from.

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.

 

A WEIGHTY ISSUE

“Are you body beach ready”

“Shake yourself skinny”

“Spray away your fat”

“Lose weight, feel great”

Just a few of the millions of ad campaigns when I look at adverts for diet/ looking good/ health etc.

Recently I felt very unwell, had pins and needles and left arm pain, a man whom we know who is a paramedic came over to check me out, he took my pulse, checked my heart rate and then pronounced, ” You know why you are getting these pains?” “It’s because you are fat”, he then continued “Don’t you want to be one of those women who walk in to a room and all heads turn to check you out”.  I was embarrased, and stunned.

I do love a wee browse in the shops on my day off, and today I ventured in to a shop I had never been to, it was not a particularly upmarket shop, nor was  it exclusively advertised for smaller women, walking around the shop I realised that in the hundreds of rails, all different designers and makes, there were no clothes higher than a size 16.

Setting myself a little challenge, and having a little extra time, I decided to look at every rail, check out all the clothes, I searched high and low, sweat began to form, my heart beat fast as I desperately sought just one outfit, just one skirt, one pair of trousers, shirt, jumper, cardigan, t-shirt, underwear ..anything to prove to myself that this huge shop catered to more than a size 14/16. Eventually beaten and saddened I admitted defeat.

It is a well-known fact that the average British women is a size 16. looking around the café I am currently in I spot within seconds 2 women who are clearly larger than a size 16.  In fact if I pause, look out the window for a few minutes I am certain that I will see rather a lot of women who are not the “average” size.

Weight has annoyingly been an issue to me for many  years, many years ago, I was skinny, but desperately unhappy, now I am large, extra-large in fact, but I am in a good place, obviously one does not automatically cancel out the other, one can be very slim and be happy or miserable, one can be large ( or obese) and be in a great place, or again, unhappy.

I am aware that weight is dependant on many factors, for me a lot of my weight gain is due to the medication I take, the fact that it often makes me lethargic and to be brutally honest my eating habits were, until 3 weeks ago, terrible.

The question I ask myself is, why do we want to lose our weight, why do we torture ourselves endlessly about being overweight in a society where we all know that eating disorders are at an all time high, I see my young nieces, no more than 12/13, who are just perfect the way they are worrying about their weight, trying unsuccessfully to pinch the non existent fat on their stomachs, bemoaning their fate. these are girls who are not on social media, who do not read celebrity magazines, and do not watch tv, so where does it come from ? This endless lust for being skinny, the subconscious idea that if a person is a certain size they are somehow “better people”.

Society at large, is skin deep, we aspire to be better people, we try to lead good lives, but we live in a culture of looks. I have a friend who recently told me that following her huge weight loss, people who never spoke to her before, suddenly started to speak to her, that for a while it was an amazing feeling to be able to pick out an outfit without climbing in to the rail, puffing and panting, trying to reach the depths to see if they stocked her size, the frustration and the self loathing she felt when being out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs, the avoidance of being fully naked, the sadness when looking in the mirror, but eventually she realised that whilst her self-esteem had of course increased being slim in today’s world was rarely about health, but more about looks.

Whilst waiting weekly for my daughter to finish her dance class, another class finishes, a zumba class for adults, regularly I overhear ladies discussing their weight as they emerge breathless and sweating from the class, the ladies are on average a size 10, standing there, wearing my size …. I feel obese, ugly, and ashamed, but then, when my mind is clear, I understand that my weight may not be healthy, but nor is their body image, they do not love themselves even though they are skinny ( not slim, skinny).

Teenagers starving themselves, going in to the school toilets at lunch breaks to throw up that piece of lettuce they have just eaten, constantly exercising, is this about health or is it due to living in a society where “fat girls” are not popular, scorned and teased and made to feel a lesser person for not being the perfect weight?

Recently I started slimming world, I am also on a WatsApp group for slimming world, it is truly inspirational, slimming world makes sense, I can eat meat, pasta, potatoes etc.  I have changed my eating habits drastically. Below, just because I am in the mood of completely embarrassing myself is a typical days eating before,

Breakfast: 

(Large) Chocolate Bar, Latte.

Snack

(Large) packet of crisps, diet coke, more coffee.

Lunch: 

On my days off work, a take out, or large bowl of pasta etc. Diet Coke

Afternoon snack:

Chocolate, crisps etc.

Supper:

Pasta with tuna and mayo, toast with chocolate spread, meat, chips ( you get the idea)

Evening snacks:

Chocolate, toast, crisps ……

Listing my before diet I am horrified at the life style I was leading, I do not know what tipped me over the edge and convinced me to seriously starting to lose weight, I think whilst I was a smoker, the nicotine and chemicals that filled my body brought my whole mood down, made me sluggish and tired, I have felt better since stopping smoking and know that if I can conquer the poison of cigarettes I know I can be a healthy weight.

Sadly, the comment that paramedic made, telling me that I am having aches and pains due to being “fat” was the one that encouraged me to start loosing.

My 9 year old is a dancer, her entire being is made up of dance enzymes, she will dance any time she can, loves her dance classes, and often begs us to send her to more classes, on the other hand, she is her mother`s daughter and enjoys her food (a lot!).  some weeks ago, I made a comment, as I said it, as my mouth opened and the words formed I knew that I should not be saying it, as the words came out my mouth I willed them back. “You know you’re getting a bit of a belly, you need to be careful what you eat”….. WORST WORDS…..EVER!!!!!  That evening, whilst she was meant to be getting on her pyjamas, she appeared in to my room in full dance wear, she switched on the music and began dancing as if her life depended on it, when I asked her what in heavens she was doing she replied ” you said I am getting a belly, I need to lose weight, so need to exercise”. the experience taught me so much, Our children are growing up in a skinny is super” world, school mates can be cruel, looks are everything, if I can do anything to ensure my daughter,  grows feeling that it does not matter if she has a belly, that as long as she is healthy that is all that matters, as long as she is happy within herself, loves and respects her body I will feel I have done the best I can.

Do I want to lose weight so that “all eyes will be on me when I walk in to a room”. you know what, maybe for a little while that would be wonderful, to feel when I walk in the room that I am not the biggest lady in there, to feel confident in my skin, to be able to look at myself in a mirror and not feel disgust is a goal, but my main goal?

My main purpose in loosing weight is self-love, and love of my family, it is not that the people around me will admire me, treat me as if my looks are me, but it is for my happiness, my health and most important, so that I can dance with my daughter, always, and without being out of breath.

Love yourself, your body does not define you, be healthy for your sake, not for those around you.

Lots of love.

Sara

 

 

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

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.

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