Tag Archives: Anxiety

Managing depression and anxiety in relationships; early days and long term.

Tips and suggestions for managing depression and anxiety within relationships.

A version of this article was published in the Summer 2013 edition of ONEinFOUR magazine.

Managing mental health when meeting someone new; the early days of uncertainty and strong emotions.

Four years ago I was pretty happy. I felt I was finally managing to keep all life’s balls in the air. depression and anxietyIn meeting someone new, another ball was introduced. This ball brought strong emotions with it: uncertainty, interdependence and allowing someone else to influence my feelings. Fitting this ball into the show without dropping the rest proved difficult.

In the early weeks the obsessive, over thinking part of my mind – the part that makes me ill – stirred and breathed its negative fog over everything. It was poked awake by the healthy but strong emotions associated with falling in love. And then it distorted them horribly.

Liking someone brings vulnerability, uncertainty and risk of rejection. Could I keep this experience separate from the part of my mind that worries over things until it’s wrung out every negative conclusion? Could I stop myself seeing every uncertain incident as an example of my inability to conduct relationships?

Recognising and distinguishing between the emotions that come with the territory of falling in love and those made worse by my depression helped me to focus on the former and disregard the latter. I’m very glad I did. I wrote a little more about how I worked through some of these emotions in my post ‘Writing my mind – writing in the immediacy of the moment’.

Managing depression and anxiety in a committed relationship

That was the early days. And despite the uncertainties being countered by excitement and the rushes of dopamine and norepinephrine, I’m glad they’re over. But how do you manage when depression or anxiety are part of a committed relationship? It isn’t easy. Depression and anxiety can magnify and distort emotions. You need to be on your guard. When looking through their unnatural or distorting lens you can start to feel that there is a problem with the relationship itself – or with one person within it.

When you have to manage mental health in a relationship you need to ensure that that your safety net is strong and maintained by you both to avoid regularly hitting crisis point. So what can work? Continue reading

Understanding mental trickery – notes from depression island…

The three tricks that a depressed mind can play on you – and how to overcome them.

An ongoing balancing act

I would describe managing depression as an ongoing balancing act. A lot of that is knowing and understanding how my thought processes work and what influences my mood.adore endure

Alas, the mind is a tricksey thing and knowing it is a complicated process. I’ve been thinking about some of those nasty mental tricks a mind prone to depression can play. In the course of trying to make sense of them I have been thinking about depression through the metaphor of inhabiting islands. But I’ll get onto that…

Tricky thing 1: The reverse motivation caused by depression

My Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course spoke about the reverse motivation often present during depression. You can read a bit more about that session in my Mindfulness diary for Mind here – ‘How can I best take care of myself‘.

So what is reverse motivation?

Usually we want to do something and then we do it. When depressed, sometimes we have to do something in order to want to do it. The motivation comes second.  I know that sometimes I end up feeling better by making myself put one foot in front of the other and doing something I initially really do not want to do – often exercise (which I write more about here in ‘Running stops my thoughts running wild‘), visiting friends or getting to work.  However, it can be hard to persuade myself when in a very low mood.

Why? Well partly I think this is down to another sometimes quite devastating trick that a depressed mind can play. Continue reading

Christmas, comparisons, media and mental health – thoughts on having a more realistic Christmas this year.

Internal comparisons

Perfect Christmas? Only in Legoland..

Perfect Christmas? Only in Legoland..

Do you have an internal picture in your mind of how your life ‘should’ be?

When you are feeling low, do you ever find yourself judging your experience as ‘not right’ and comparing it to how you feel you ‘should’ be feeling or what ‘should’ be happening?

By this I mean thinking thoughts like;

 

“Things should be different to this”

“I should be doing this”

“I shouldn’t be feeling this way”

“I should be able to cope”

“ I should be better at managing this”

“I’m on holiday, I should be happy”.

As someone who manages depression, I often have to note and fight against my tendency to make comparisons and judgements about how I feel my experience ‘should’ be. This doesn’t often happen consciously, but takes place in the flow of automatic thoughts that run like a tape through my mind when I’m not really paying attention.

The comparison itself isn’t a very pleasant experience. It is made worse by the fact that thoughts like this can (often without us even really noticing) lead to further negative thoughts and judgements about yourself, the world and the future. This can lead to a downwards spiral into a low mood – one that you can’t work out where it came from or how to get rid of it.

“I feel low this morning”

“This is a really rubbish thing to be feeling”

“I shouldn’t be feeling low, everyone else is happy”

“What’s wrong with me that makes me feel this way?”

“Why can’t I ever just be happy?”

“Nothing is ever going to change”

What if you were able to catch yourself and stop making those initial automatic comparisons? Instead of this downwards spiral making your negative mood more deeply entrenched, what if you could be more accepting towards your initial low mood? Instead of making things much worse by judging, comparing and trying to intellectualise your emotions, you could just try taking a positive action to help yourself feel better – or just wait for the experience to pass. Continue reading

Finding a breathing space – eight weeks of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Over the past month I have been working on a series of posts for Mind about my experience of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). My own original post about Mindfulness – ‘Keeping the beast asleep’ is by far my most popular – and Mind are interested in how users of their services can develop resilience and ongoing mental health management skills. It seemed like a good fit.

I have written eight posts, each one reflecting one of the eight sessions that I attended as part of the Breathing Space ‘Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for depression’ course. These are based on the diaries I kept of my experience, as well as the handouts we received and my reading of Segal, Williams and Teasdale’s book on MBCT.

The process of revisiting the course, and reading more about it was a really positive one for me. I found myself re-remembering elements I had forgotten and using the techniques more and more. It was great to put down in words some practical examples of how the course helped me, and revisit the feelings and thoughts I’d recorded at the time.

There were also elements of the writing process that I found difficult. Fundamentally, the course is one based in practical experience and ongoing practice. I wanted to emphasise that just reading the posts wouldn’t help in the way that attending a practical course would.

Having said that, I definitely feel that there is a place for a simple week by week exploration of the basic concepts and ideas. Putting these alongside some explanation of some of the practical activities we underwent and I how I experienced them could give people an introduction and a sense of how a mindful approach could help in practice. I hope that is what I have managed to do – to some extent at least.

I also wanted to replicate the development of the course over the eight weeks, the gradual build of skills and understanding which helped me to really grasp some quite new concepts and perspectives. It was tempting to try and explain everything at once – but to really replicate the course and embed the concepts and ideas, I needed to take it slowly.

The first four posts, like the first four sessions, explore and develop new skills and perspectives. These build a foundation from which, in the later posts, we can introduce some new ideas and suggestions for using these skills to improve our lives. At the first session of the course we were encouraged to stick with it, even if we didn’t see initially how it would help. Trusting in the course and keeping going, even at the points when it didn’t seem to be helping, or even making much sense, led to a really positive experience for me. I found myself wanting to do the same for the readers of the series.

The eight posts will be published weekly by Mind. As they are published, I will link to them below with a short summary. Continue reading

Writing my mind – some thoughts about the benefits and impacts of public and private journalling

Childhood diaries

I’ve always used writing to know and to guide my mind in one way or another. Usually, this haswriting taken the form of a diary or journal. In thinking about the part that writing has played in managing my mind, I had an interesting evening going through my old diaries and notebooks. The entries were initially quite amusing and nothing but a day by day record of what went on.

‘’Today Richard got his new high chair it was white with blue stripes and the seat dad got was the same pattern with frills round the edge and mum said she didn’t like it.  Me and Paul might be able to have the box” (3rd Feb 1992)

 

“I dumped Simon today. He practically ignored me all the time. I did it nicely. I haven’t seen him since I did as he is in a different technology group. Had lots of fun second lesson of technology”(28th March 1996)

However, it wasn’t long until they became more difficult to read. This still one causes me pain, and shame at how I treated my parents when I was down.

“Mum says if I treated my friends like I treated my family, I wouldn’t have any. Why do I have such twisted anger and tension in me I have to take it out on people and get in moods” (1999)

Continue reading

Mind the gap – GPs, antidepressants and mental health support for young people.

“I’m not going to give you another prescription”
“What… but I need it.. (panics)”
“Don’t worry, I was just testing to see if you really did still need them..and I think you do”
GP in Fenham, Newcastle

“Just take them when you feel you need to”  – to me aged 17.
GP in Cumbria

“So, do you want to kill yourself then?” – on a routine prescription pick up.
GP in Bow, London

“It’s important you stop taking this medication as soon as possible, we have no idea what impact it can have, especially if you start taking it when you are under 18”
GP in Fenham, Newcastle

“It’s fine for you to take it as long as you need to, even for ever”
GP in Tower Hamlets, London

“They’re not addictive”
GP in Cambridge

“You will get withdrawal symptoms”
GP in Byker, Newcastle


The above is a selection of the contradicting information and advice – as well as frankly bizarre approaches and attitudes I have experienced in the twelve years I have been seeing GPs regularly. 

(2016 note – I wrote this piece in 2011 when I was just getting started blogging – but a lot of it is still relevant)

Personal and practical barriers to getting support from a GP

I’ve spent lot of time supporting young people to take the first steps to support. Their GP is usually the gatekeeper for services.  A lot of young people really struggle to get the mental health support they need, facing a number of personal or practical barriers along the way. As well as support in articles, live chat and on discussion boards, one of the projects I was involved in at YouthNet (now The Mix) was crowdsourcing and discussing experiences in order to create community content to help others overcome these barriers. The project really highlighted the frustrating reality of trying to get the support you need from local health services. Continue reading