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May 2016

9 Things Learned from Mental Health Issues

What have we learned as a group suffering from mental health problems?

This is the question I asked friends via social media and I got some great answers that I thought I would share with all of you.

The answers are just in the order that I received them so no one answer is more important than the other.

  1. Never take anything for granted.

Good mental health days are there but they’re not always there.  Don’t take your health and current circumstances for granted. Equally don’t assume that your bad days are all that there is. Things change all the time.

  1. People are less scary than you think

For those of us with anxiety often people are a terrifying concept.  It may  be that people scare you on mass or it could be a specific person that gets your anxiety going.  Fact is that they aren’t as bad as they seem or your mind makes you think.  Everyone is after-all only human.  People are less scary than you think.

  1. Don’t be afraid to cry

Another great thing to learn.  Crying isn’t so bad.  Sometimes we need to cry.  Sometimes crying is the first glorious step back to feeling something, anything. Don’t be afraid to cry. Personally whenever I have to confront my mental health with a professional the tears come whether I like it or not. I find it frustrating and it gets my annoyed but really I should just embrace the tears.  It’s part of healing I guess.

  1. Have good friends around you

A must have. Have friends that understand mental health problems. Have friends that will pick up the slack when you can’t handle things anymore.  Without good friends life becomes a lot harder.  Family are also invaluable if they understand you.  A good support system is an essential for those of us suffering from poor mental health.

  1. Learn to be kind to yourself.

I have said this point myself before.  Talk to yourself the way you would talk to others, with kindness. Even when your brain shouts mean things at you, realise it will pass.  Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend.  Stop judging yourself so harshly and of course never be afraid to ask for help from a professional. The Samaritans are there, your doctors are there.

  1. That my Anxiety was a super power I needed to learn to control.

One of my responders said that her anxiety made her  “an empathetic, thoughtful and kind person.”  It made her see that everyone makes mistakes and taught her to forgive and forget. She went on to say, “ Yes, my Anxiety is awful and debilitating sometimes, but to quote Emilie Autumn ‘If I had a chance to change my mind, I wouldn’t for the world’.”

  1. People are much more confident in offering help when you are physically ill than when you are mentally ill.

It’s so true.  It’s easy to see how someone with a broken leg or the flu needs to be looked after.  We understand these illnesses.  Even health professionals don’t fully understand mental health so how are we meant to understand how to help other people?  It is a super hard task.  I think there is a lot of variation from person to person and no one way to help.  I also think that the hardest and most important thing for both the ill person and the person who wants to help is to talk.  Asking for help is hard.  Offering help is also hard.  It might be something simple like just making a cup of tea and having a chat.  It could make all the difference.  The most useful thing you can give is your time and patience.

  1. This next one I find controversial but I’m going to include it anyway: “That when someone who’s suffering tells you to back off and leave them be, even if it seems counter-intuitive to you and even if it appears that their behaviour is actually a cry for help, no matter how much you want to wrap them up in love– back away: they know what’s good for them in that moment (even if the moment turns into days, weeks or months). You just have to trust them. If you show them that you trust their judgement, they’ll eventually come to you on their own. It will never happen if you impose help on them though”

Because sometimes people don’t know what they need.  Sometimes you have to help beyond what someone requests. Sometimes I ask to be left alone when really I don’t want to be.  I can’t be the only one.  However I know other people who need their own space to regroup and refocus themselves.

So again this comes down to how well you know the person.  How their personality interacts with their illness and what you should do. I’m afraid there are no easy answers.

  1. That you can’t let you mental health issues stop you from doing anything you want to do.

This bit of advice comes from a friend who is currently traveling around the world and living a life that a lot of us dream of.  She says she would never let her anxiety and depression be an excuse for anything.

 

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Searching for the Right Kind of Drug

This week I went back to the GPs only to be told that they wouldn’t want to mess with the medication I’m on so I have to wait for a Consultant to see me.

All well and good, but not really the best of options when the waiting list is months not weeks.

It also makes me worry about the medication that I’m on because if the GP won’t touch it then what the hell am I taking?

I hate my medication.

Thanks to it I have ballooned in weight.

I wish, I really wish I had never started it.

Even when I was ill before I wasn’t as bad as I am now and I blame my medication for messing with my head unsuccessfully.

At the time when I started I thought I would pay any price for sanity.

It turns out sanity, is overrated and very hard to achieve.

I still haven’t been “cured”.

I now realise that there is no cure.

Just pills to manage the worst of things.

Well now I’m fed up.

Nothing is managed and now I’m fat.

Thanks for nothing.

You may think I’m about to be a hypocrite because now I’m going to say something weird.

I think pills can work for depression.

If you’re depressed go ahead take the pills they work.

Pills do not work for forms of bipolar in my case anyway. I cannot really speak for anyone else. Hell if you have bipolar and have some great pills that work comment below and hook a sister up! So I’ll stop trying to be street it doesn’t work for me.

But my points are pills don’t work for me.

Where do I go from here?  I have to wait months until I see someone who supposedly knows what they’re doing. And when I do see them I’ll cry because I’m so angry and frustrated and it all bubbles out when I see someone in the form of tears.

God how I hate those tears.

They stop me expressing myself properly.

They invoke pity.

I don’t want pity I want a solution and I want one that doesn’t make me fat.

The drugs they peddle don’t work.

I can’t come off my current medication without seeing a consultant so now I just have to wait.

Frustrated, badly managed and on the edge of a breakdown.

Great.

Still, a part of me thinks, maybe, just maybe I haven’t had the right kind of pills yet.

I’m Hypomanic, hell yes

Good blog to read

too polar

My anxiety is managed. Seroquel XR took the biggest bite out of it, Gabapentin is likely helping. I’ve been taking Gabapentin for a week now.

My apathy is crippling though. I do nothing.

Since my anxiety is finally managed my doctor wanted to focus on my inability to concentrate, which is part of my apathy.

Today she prescriped me Strattera. I picked it up a few hours ago. I was suppose to start it tomorrow morning, but I didn’t want to wait.

New pills often through me off for a few days and trigger mania.

Bingo.

Day one on Strattera 18mg, hello hypomania.

I hate how much I love this. Laundry, dishes, and car maintenance done in the last two hours. Now dinner with Dan.

Zoom. Zoom.

Current Meds: Lamictal 200mg, Effexor XR 75mg, Seroquel XR 300mg, Gabapentin 300 – 600mg, Strattera 18mg, Caffeine Pill 400mg

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Failure

Most of the time I feel like a failure

This cartoon below sums up how my mind can often work:

photo (11)

 

It is something that we should be able to laugh at but I want to use the above cartoon to raise an important point.

When I don’t succeed at a small task, before you know it I’m a ball of self-hate wishing I wasn’t in the world.

The cartoon helps illustrate the absurdity.

It’s something small, don’t sweat it is what the brain should say.

But should is such a horrid word.

I should be able to get dressed and out of bed today.

I should be able to concentrate on reading today.

I should be able to work today.

I should be able to do this.

It’s a horrible word.

Why should I?

Whose expectations am I trying to live up to?

Sadly they’re my own.

I’m my own enemy.

It often feels like I’m locked in this epic battle with my own mind. Wanting to do this list of things and not being able to because my own mind is stopping me.

It’s frustrating, it’s tear-inducing, and it makes me angry.

Apart from I don’t get angry.

I get self-hate-y

I don’t like anger I feel it’s unhealthy.

Ironic

I’m not in a healthy place as it is.

Self-hate-y harms no one else but me.

And in my mind I’m a failure and not worth much.

Reviewing: Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

What an amazing book.  I want to stand on street corners passing it out as essential literature.

I understand religious fervour now because finally I have read something that makes sense!

His writing has helped my own writing; it’s like learning a new language with which I can express myself.

I want everyone to read it so that they can get a view into depression and mental health problems.

I feel like people need to read his book and that if they did maybe they would understand me and other people more.

Sometimes I see the blank expressions people have when you try and explain a mental health problem to them.  They nod like they get it but you know that they don’t.

Matt Haig – gets it because he’s been through it and is still fighting his demons but what he achieves that I can only hope I will achieve in time is that he gets you to understand him too.

You can feel the fire in his mind; the anxiety is described in a way that you understand too.

You feel his anxiety as he tries to get to the corner shop.

How many times have I been there too?  Wanting to go to the shop. Forcing myself there full of panic and feeling like my brain might melt or I’ll die right there and then.

He presents hope.

He presents understanding.

He is easy to read and it is a testament to what a great writer he is.

So in short, read this book.  You have to.  Hell if I could afford it I would buy your copy.

The man is a genius.

Amazonian frog poison to treat alcohol abuse and depression

Another great piece in Vice, see link below, which covers the story of some Brits who are turning to Amazonian frog poison as a treatment for their alcohol dependency and depression

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/kambo-ceremony-alcoholism-purging-uk?utm_source=vicefbuk&utm_campaign=global

The practise sees the user burned and then the poison rubbed on their wounds.

The poison causes severe vomiting and a sense of calm.

The article raises a few questions in me.

Have we stopped trusting pharmaceutical companies and their solutions?

Do the answers lie within nature itself?

The problem is that not enough research has been done; the stories are mostly anecdotal and not strong enough to tempt me into a calm vomit fest.

I discuss some similar points in my previous post: https://differentbrainwaves.org/2016/05/05/ketamine-as-a-treatment-are-drugs-the-answer/

In that we don’t even know if drugs in general, prescribed or otherwise are in fact the answer to mental health problems.

Prescribed medication is something I rely on heavily, personally; however it comes at a high cost with horrible side effects.

The worst for me is probably the weight gain I have had and the constant reminders that yes I am indeed fat nowadays coming from every corner.

Yet I still advocate the use of medication because I see it works.

In my case I want a medication review because I refuse to accept that this is my lot.

There has to be alternatives to terrible side effects and there has to be better treatments.

Especially when I still get a lot of symptoms of bipolar I often feel like I take my medication for nothing.

So am I about to turn to Amazonian frog poison?

Not yet.

However I did read the article with hope, people are still searching for answers and someone has to try the potential solutions.

Ketamine as a treatment: Are drugs the Answer?

A really interesting article in Vice (see link below)

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-used-ketamine-to-treat-my-depression-122?utm_source=vicefbuk&utm_campaign=global

It covers Brent Miles’ experience trying IV Ketamine as a treatment for his bipolar and depression.

It is a really good read and raises some important issues.

For example in the current trend for medicating mental health problems, in both Brent’s and my experience, it really does seem that doctors will just throw pills at you and pray something works.

Brent says: “ I’m not an expert in pharmaceuticals, but it just seems like the strategy is just to throw different medicines at the wall and see what sticks.”

Mental health problems are still not particularly understood well and although treatments are I hope always improving this article shows that there is some hope with the use of ketamine.

I’m not sure if personally I would want to receive it in IV form – only because despite being covered in tattoos I hate needles.

Although I think never say never – I am only 28, when I get to 41 and I’m still fighting the bipolar demons I might consider it too.

The other point he raises is the addictive quality of the medications that are used to treat mental health problems and the tolerance you build to them.  It seems almost inevitable that you have to battle drug addiction a long with mental health problems with the way that treatments are at the moment.

Many people will turn to illicit drugs to self-medicate and to be honest if I had the payroll behind me I would definitely consider it. Even my beloved Stephen Fry has admitted to self-medicating with a number of substances.

I would personally love to be prescribed Valium again – it seems to have been the only thing that stopped my anxiety in its tracks.  However it is extremely addictive and so doctors don’t like to give out many of those magical pills.

Most of the medications we have available via prescriptions don’t touch the edges and while it probably isn’t advisable to go breaking laws and bank accounts I can see why the temptation is there.

I have joked that if I had some cocaine for the lows and Valium to dull the highs I’d be able to function.

No-one else I know seems to find it as funny.

Trapped in cycles of depression and mania, with limited counselling availability and a long waiting list to see a psychiatrist can you really blame my cravings?

So Ketamine as a treatment for the lows is highly tempting – however as Brent says in his article, the price tag is high so as usual the treatment isn’t something that is available to all.

What do you think?  Is there enough research into treatments for mental health problems?  Are drugs – prescribed or otherwise the answer?

I was once asked if I lived on an isolated island and had everything I needed to physically survive would I change having bipolar?

My answer is no, it is too much part of who I am – so then we have to ask maybe the problem isn’t just within ourselves but within the society in which we are trying to function in as well.

So are drugs the answer?  The problem is I don’t know.

I do know everything I have tried so far hasn’t “cured” me.  I also know that maybe I don’t want to be cured at all.

Rapid Cycles: The Madness of Highs

This morning I felt terrible.  I was super low.  I hated myself and I didn’t know if I could face the day or even get out of bed.

Right now I feel amazing, I am buzzing and I want to run around in circles or maybe dance or maybe fly off to somewhere exotic and leave mundane life behind.

Right now I feel like I have had a million coffees.

I feel like I could do anything, take any bad news on my chin and take on the world.

There is still anxiety

But it is more like nervous energy.

I want to go for a run or a walk or a leap.

However, I have a few things I have to do today.  Like write for a living and run later with my husband so I am trying very hard to contain myself.

I feel like I’m going to explode I have so much nervous power at the moment.  I feel powerful.

I feel like I might start crying too.

This is what it feels like to be on the high end of cyclothymic disorder.

In the space of a few hours I have gone from suicidal to being able to rule the world.

I feel like I am on the edge of madness.

Now what do I do?

Well I am trying to bring myself down to normal, to calm, to sanity.

This blog is the only thing I could think of doing that wasn’t financially or physically risky.  I am itching to spend some money on my credit card.

Itching to plan an adventure and go somewhere exciting.

Sitting still in my room typing rapidly is still too slow.

It is torture.

I want something to happen and I want it to happen now.

What can you do when you are on a high?

All I have been able to do is warn my friends and husband that I am on a high and hope that they can stop me doing something that I will probably regret later.

I am using all my mental will power and strength to ‘act normal.’

Don’t spend on the credit card.

Don’t go out in just your pyjamas for a walk

Don’t Don’t Don’t

My only advice from this side of bipolar/cyclothymic disorder is have a good support system so that when you are ready to leap there is someone to catch you when you fall.

Lessons from Therapy: Scheduling in Pleasure

This week I had my second therapy session and I came away with some important lessons that I would like to share.

It seems that most of my days I survive them but I do not necessarily enjoy them.

This is because while a normal day should be split into chunks of time where we work, rest and play my days are just work and rest.

What do I mean by this?

Well, if I asked the average person to list one thing that was pleasurable that they did for themselves each day most people would be able to come up with something.

Perhaps you read a few pages of a book, watched a new film or series or maybe you went for a run.

Whatever you do to unwind I bet you do it nearly every day.

Low mood Sophia does not do this.

I wake up, eat and if I’m very lucky and the walls don’t close in I make it to and through a shift of work.

I don’t do anything nice for myself.

There are a multitude of excuses to avoid giving yourself a treat or me time.

There’s no time in the day, it’s too expensive, I’m exhausted, before you know it the day is over and you’re in bed and you haven’t actually done anything nice to yourself.

Probably because like me what you really think is that you don’t deserve the nice things anyway.

To turn these thoughts around I have been given a week planner (see below) splitting the day into morning, afternoon and evening and my challenge for the week is to complete the planner with at least one pleasurable thing in each day.

The challenge is to plan the nice thing, write it down and then do it.

WeeklyPlanner

weekly planner

So I guess it is time that I fill mine out (it has been two days since therapy and I have been resisting filling it out but I’m going to use the blog as a good push now).

Saturday – I went out for pancakes with my husband and his best friend

Sunday – I wrote this blog post

Monday – I will read some more of the book I’m reading (I will write a separate post on that as it is excellent)

Tuesday – I’m planning a run

Wednesday – I’m going to spend some of my evening learning Dutch

Thursday – Optimistic but hoping for another run

Friday- I’m going to write another blog post or read some more of my book

All of these tasks over the week have something in common. They are short in terms of time.  None of them will take me more than half an hour.  They are solely for my benefit (with the exception of brunch which I think we all know everyone enjoyed).

The aim of the activities is to get you doing something that you do not naturally do.  Put yourself first and give yourself some well-deserved you time.

The problem with depression, anxiety, low mood, bipolar and any other mental illness is that a large amount of time is spent attacking yourself, putting yourself down and denying you a break.

So the lesson to come away with in this post is that a) you deserve to experience pleasure and b) in order to break the normal cycle of self-hate and low mood you may have to physically schedule in the time for pleasure.

Getting into the habit of allowing you some time to do something nice for yourself is a good habit.

Something we could all do with doing.

So now I challenge you to complete this weekly planner yourself and schedule in some time each day to do something nice for yourself.

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