Archive for September, 2014

Mindfulness Based Smoking Cessation Course

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Now starting November 11th, 6-8 at the Angel Centre, our new Mindfulness Based Smoking Cessation course aims to help you cope with stress better and manage the cravings associated with giving up smoking.

Fill in a referral form to join the course.

Blog – Living with Schizophrenia

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

My name is “Katherine” and I have suffered from schizophrenia for over 25 years. Sometimes I can’t believe I have had this condition for as long as I have.

It started when I was 25 and has almost become a part of me. The first few years I was at University and suffered with it alone; the first time I had a Psychotic Breakdown was when I was living as a student in Mexico.

The “startling phase”, as author Marius Romme puts it, is a very scary time when you don’t know what is happening to you. I knew I was “going mad” but couldn’t articulate what was happening to me, I half knew the voices weren’t real – but they seemed very real to me.

They never told me to do anything, but commented on me – something they still do sometimes, saying negative and abusive things about me. It is like all the negative things anyone ever said about me were stored in my subconscious, ready to pounce on me unawares.

A New Chapter

Up until last year I was working part time as an admin officer for a supported housing unit, and before that I worked for a mental health trust in the NHS. I found working very stressful – not so much because of the actual work, which I found quite therapeutic; but because the symptoms I suffered from, the paranoia and voices and anxiety, made it difficult at times.

I was dismissed from work in January because I had been off sick most of last year. Although my Salford employer were good, I was unable to carry on working because of my symptoms.

Dealing with the symptoms was made more difficult because of the lack of continuity of care I had when I moved to a different area – I got no help from the mental health team there. They referred me to my GP for care, and it wasn’t until I moved house back to Salford that my treatment improved. I saw a psychiatrist who increased my medication to help decrease the symptoms, and I now have a CPN too; it helps to talk to her about my issues once a month.

I now volunteer once a week , which is good for me – I get social interaction, and also do some work, which is good for the soul. I would like to be able to work again on a part-time basis when I eventually get a bit more control over my symptoms, although with something like Schizophrenia these are difficult to eradicate totally even with medication.

I am going to go to Mind in Salford’s Mindfulness course soon, which I hope will help with my anxiety. Problems with my neighbours make my anxiety and stress levels much worse, and cause lack of sleep – and these make my other symptoms worse.

I will also be undergoing a short course of CAT (cognitive analytical therapy) in Trafford, which I hope will help me control some of my symptoms.

I do a lot of reading and recommend “Accepting Voices” by Marius Romme, which explains all about voices and helps you to come to terms with them. There are many publications written by the Hearing Voices Network (who I used to volunteer for) and they are very helpful as well. Another good book I found was by a group of psychologists called: “Think You’re Crazy, Think Again”.

Living with Schizophrenia – and Stigma

Living with psychosis can be a full time job, especially if you don’t take medication, which I didn’t for the first few years. I didn’t see a psychiatrist until 1993, and it started in 1989. I did see student counsellors, but they weren’t much help, and didn’t realise I was as ill as I was – in fact I think they needed better training.

When I was at uni I was all at sea, I became more and more isolated, and the friends I did have didn’t understand, and weren’t very caring or compassionate. It was quite a lonely place.

I had psychotherapy at the Red House (1994-1996), where I met my husband and learned to understand myself and my parents better. I met a few good friends there as well, people that really understood me, and were on my wave length. They didn’t have schizophrenia, they had other mental health issues, but they could understand. I still have one good friend from the Red House today.

It is very difficult making friends with this condition. You are afraid of revealing too much information. To say you have Schizophrenia is to reveal yourself and to be judged by something so stigmatising; it is one of the last taboos. People make assumptions about you, are scared by you, dismiss you because they think you are the illness.

It doesn’t help that all the media broadcasts negative things about Schizophrenia, axe murderers, machete be-headers – in the same way that Jihadists are written about. There are rarely positive things written about people with the condition. They don’t say that people with Schizophrenia can be kind, can have their own house and job, and have loving relationships just like anyone else.

Life with Schizophrenia can be challenging, difficult and sometimes a nightmare – but there can be good times, times when you can enjoy the simple things in life, like a day out at the beach or a laugh between friends or partners, stroking a purring cat or even something mundane like a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

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This blog has courageously been written by one of our service users; “Katherine” wishes to remain anonymous to avoid facing more stigma in the future.

If you connect with anything within this blog, and would like more information or help, the Hearing Voices Network can be contacted via their website www.hearing-voices.org.

If you wish to find out more about our Mindfulness courses, visit our Mindfulness section; a referral form can be found there too.

Blog – Floating Through Your Anxiety

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

When I was suffering from really bad anxiety a few years ago, I discovered a self-help book by Dr Claire Weekes that helped me immensely.

Dr Claire Weekes was an Australian Psychologist who was very forward thinking and successful in her treatment of people with anxiety and depression. She wrote several bestselling books on the subject too.

One of the central themes of her recovery approach was to ‘float’ through anxiety. When the anxious thoughts and bodily sensations hit you, then simply imagine that you are floating. This act of imagining you are floating relieves both the psychological and physical tension of anxiety and allows the feelings, thoughts and sensations to simply wash over you and eventually pass. Over time this allows us to stop adding our fear of the anxiety to the equation and can lead to a reduction in those anxious feelings and thoughts. It’s breaking that cycle, the fear of the fear.

This is a sharp contrast to how most of us usually react when we are anxious; fighting with the anxiety, battling to stay in control, analysing ourselves, and holding on for just one more moment because we feel if we let go we’ll lose control and fall apart.

Claire Weekes encourages us to practice letting go; there’s no imaginary precipice that we’re going to fall over if we do…

Why not try it now.

Just practice simply letting go.

If you’re sitting let the chair take your full weight

See if you can get a sense of what letting go might mean for you.

If your anxiety builds then just imagine that you’re floating.

Letting the anxious feelings and thoughts just be there as you float, float, float…

And let go.

The more you practice this the easier it gets but you have to give it a little time and be patient. It can help you to overcome your anxiety and panic. It’s the giving up our struggle and fight with anxiety that allows us to recover. It can also help if you’re experiencing sleep problems because of anxiety, simply practice floating until you drop off to sleep.

Like I said, I used all of her techniques when I was experiencing debilitating anxiety several years ago and I can say hand on heart that it helped to set me on the road to recovery.

Books by Claire Weekes:

  • Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear
  • Essential Help for Your Nerves: Recover from Nervous Fatigue and Overcome Stress and Fear
  • Markus has also previously written a blog on learning to Hug the Black Dog

    Blog – Talking about Depression…

    Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

    There has been a lot of public debate about mental health recently, specifically relating to depression and suicide.

    Two key phrases I’ve heard repeatedly are ‘ask for help’ and ‘talk more about mental health’. Whilst this is encouraging I feel these sentiments can be misconstrued to place all the responsibility on dealing with depression with the person suffering from depression.

    Asking for help is not always easy – depression often goes hand in hand with low self esteem, and without being prompted, without being asked, there can be a tendency to think that others do not care how you are, and that you are not important enough to be helped.

    Talking about mental health is not always easy – constantly having to find a way to explain what it is like, that depression is a fatiguing & debilitating condition, not just being a little sad; that the anxiety you have is a little different to feeling a little afraid of flying.

    Media stereotypes of other conditions make talking about them even harder – trying to explain the terror involved in OCD without someone thinking it’s a big joke, trying to explain the voices in schizophrenia without someone thinking you are a ‘crazed mental patient’.

    How do I help someone who is suffering?

    In the age of the internet, with Google, Wikipedia and mental health resources like Mind at your fingertips, why does the person who is ill have to justify themselves repeatedly? If you care about someone, look up the condition, understand it a bit more, and ask considerate questions of the person who is ill. Often it can feel like you are being asked to prove that there is really something wrong with you, rather than the asker showing compassion for the person suffering.

    One of the biggest things you can do for someone who is depressed is to ask them how they are and to spend some time with them. Show them you care. Don’t shun them because they are finding it difficult to talk to people or socialise – withdrawal is a symptom of the illness.

    It’s also important to talk about more than just mental health – because someone is ill doesn’t mean they become just the illness. Talk about your own life too, talk about football, films, music, celebrities or even (grimace) tennis if that’s what you would normally talk about with the person.

    It can be extremely soul destroying suffering from mental health problems, finding out that you don’t have complete control over your mind. Some people don’t want to talk about their mental health problems – but that doesn’t mean you don’t talk to them at all! Most people still need to feel wanted, to have some evidence to counter the misinformation about their self worth coming from their own minds.

    How do I find out more about mental health

    It’s important if you haven’t experienced mental health issues to be aware of its effects so you can help those close to you. It’s important if you have a mental health condition to understand that you are not alone, that others suffer the same and (sooner or later) recover their health.

    I’ve previously written about anxiety, depression and me, and our manager Markus has written about how he learnt to hug the black dog. There are many more really good mental health blogs out there – Time to Change is a good place to start, and I’m a fan of Black Dog Runner’s blog too.

    At Mind in Salford we run Mental Health Awareness Training for organisations, helping them to support and understand people better. The training helps you to be more aware of the actual symptoms of mental health issues, re-thinking the tabloid stigmas and thinking about how you can help everyone’s mental health, whether they have mental health problems or not.

    As stated above, Mind also have many well written guides to various mental health conditions and other related topics, and Time to Change have some basic myth-busters and tips on talking to people who are ill.