Tag Archives: Depression

Motivation and depression

Exploring motivation, reverse motivation and getting motivated when struggling with depression

Mental Health Chat and motivation

Yesterday, just as I was finishing work for the day, I noticed that the #MHChat (Mental Health mh chat picturesChat) theme for the week was motivation. #MHChat is a twitter event where @MHChat poses questions on a weekly theme to encourage discussion. The question that caught my eye this week was:

MH twitter question

 

Given that this is  mental health chat, I responded with some thoughts on the reverse tweet about reverse motivationmotivation that depression can create.  To give an example; when I am depressed the last thing that I feel like doing is going for a run. I try and get out there and get going – ‘going through the motions’ – despite this lack of motivation. As I get going I gradually gain a different perspective and start to feel motivated to continue.

A few people in the discussion became interested and asked a couple of great questions back. how to motivate questons on external motivation

 

Doesn’t ‘going through the motions’ still require motivation?

I was really interested in Kathleen’s question. It really forces us to explore in depth what we mean when we talk about motivation. Continue reading

Festive comparisons and the Facebook effect

An article exploring how the media forces us to make damaging comparisons in the festive season – and how we often magnify the effect with our own social media activity.

festive snowman

A friend and old colleague Holly was recently published in the Vagenda. Her article was a spectacularly cynical but very funny piece called ‘How to be a Woman from Halloween to January 2nd’. It felt like it was making, in some ways, a similar point to my Christmas and comparisons article of last year. She was kind enough to say it was inspired by it – although they are very different styles. We’re definitely on a similar page as I recently reworked my christmas inspired tweetChristmas Comparisons article for ONE in FOUR to think about the whole of the wintery festive season we’re entering now.  I also wanted to bring in the discrepancy monitor I recently explored in my social, media mindfulness and mental health  piece. And here’s the new version;

Internal comparisons

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?

I mean thoughts like:

“Things should be different to this”
“I shouldn’t be feeling this way”
“I should be able to cope”
“I’m on holiday, I should be happy”
“Everyone else is out enjoying themselves and I’m not. What’s wrong with me?”

In managing my depression I often have to fight against my tendency to make 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 discrepancy monitor

Segal, Williams and Teasdale (the creators of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) have a name for the part of our mind that makes comparisons like these. They call it the discrepancy monitor.

When we’re trying to get practical things done the discrepancy monitor can be helpful. We look at what the situation is now (the kitchen is a mess) and how we’d like the situation to be (I’d like a tidy kitchen) and then we decide what should be done to get to the preferred outcome (tidy up).

The problem comes when the discrepancy monitor kicks in inappropriately and tries to get involved in solving the ‘problem’ of our feelings, moods and who we feel we are as a person. Trying to ‘solve’ emotions intellectually doesn’t often work.

Making comparisons between how we feel and how we’d think we ‘should’ feel is an unpleasant experience. It is made worse by the fact that these thoughts can (often without us really noticing) lead to further negative, judgemental thoughts about yourself, the world and the future. This leads to a downwards spiral into a low mood. And because the discrepancy monitor is working overtime monitoring the situation, it brings your attention to the ever-widening gap between how you feel and how you think you ‘should’ feel. You end up feeling terrible and you’re not even sure why.

“I feel tired this morning”
“This is a really rubbish thing to be feeling”
“I feel low about feeling tired”
“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 yourself making those initial comparisons? Instead of this downwards spiral making your negative mood more deeply entrenched, what if you could be more accepting towards your initial tiredness or low mood? Instead you could try taking a different and positive action that you know you gain pleasure from – or just wait for the experience to pass. Segal, Williams and Teasdale call this changing mental gear into a ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ mode. Continue reading

Articles for ONEinFOUR

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I’ve written four articles for lifestyle, health and mental wellbeing magazine ONEinFOUR.

Spring-Summer 2013 – managing depression and anxiety in relationships

The first was published in the Spring-Summer 2013 issue. It was one of the cover stories and explored managing anxiety and depression in relationships.

anxiety and dep rels

Autumn-Winter 2013

More recently I’ve written three pieces for the Autumn-Winter 2013 issue.  A piece about volunteering and mental health, an article on stigma and a longer piece on managing the festive season by avoiding making too many comparisons.

Clare uses her knowledge of mental health and previous professional experience to write good mental health and wellbeing related content that focuses on what would be useful for people to know. The results of this moves mental health away from a symptom/service defined subject and into the real textures and experiences of everyday life.

Mark Brown – One in Four Magazine and Director Social Spider CIC

Mental health information articles for 16-25 year olds

Information on recent mental health support writing for young people

logo of thesite.org

I recently completed two articles for TheSite’s new Anxiety and Depression section. Trouble getting help for mental health and Online Counselling.

Writing for young people

The aim of The Site.org content is to provide clear, straight talking and supportive information for young people. Articles respond to questions young people search for and help them to understand their situation and options.

Trouble getting help for mental health

This article helps young people who have taken steps towards accessing support but have struggled to get the help they need. This might be because their GP didn’t respond how they had hoped; they have been referred but haven’t yet heard anything; counselling didn’t work or they didn’t like their therapist.

It aims to give reassurance, emotional support and practical solutions.

Accessing your GP can be a struggle. All too often young people fall through the gaps. This was obvious every day in the work I did in YouthNet’s Engagement and Support team on overcoming barriers to support. I hope that articles like this one and services such as Doc Ready will help young people feel more able to get the help they deserve from mental health services.

I’m really really pleased with this piece. There’s a bright future in front of you. Any writer who can follow a brief is worth their weight in gold!

Holly Thompson – TheSite.org Editorial Team

Online counselling

This article gives an overview of the types of online counselling available for young people. It also gives them the information to help them decide if it is right for them. It includes information on online self-help services (both open and prescribed) and one to one counselling support online. It also looks at where and how it is accessed and how to tell if a service is reputable.

 

Why ‘Depression Island’?

A 2016 update

trainers and pillsHello! Just wanted to pop in and add some notes to this post. It’s 3 years since I wrote it and since then my mental health has fluctuated and changed quite a lot. I still manage depression but trying to come off my antidepressants really increased my anxiety for a while. And a complex combination of this and the pressures of getting married led to a significant relapse into disordered eating and an exercise addiction.

These experiences have changed my perspectives, helped me move forward with my recovery and improved my relationship with my medication. I’m getting there. I intend to keep writing but my blog should more accurately be called ‘From depression, anxiety and muddled eating island’. That’s not a very snappy title though. So I’ve changed the title to ‘Writing my mind’ until I can think of something better.

And here’s what you came here for – a bit more about what the whole island thing was about in the first place.

Where the metaphor of ‘depression island’ comes from and what it means to me.

Mental trickery
http://www.flickr.com/photos/funtik/

I find that knowing and understanding how my thought processes work and what influences my mood is one of the best ways to manage my mental health.

One of the hardest elements of depression and anxiety is that it encourages types of thinking which can go on making it worse. Things like reverse motivation and discounting the future (read more about these here). For me recognising and responding to these tricks is key to recovery.

Part of what I wanted to capture was the sense that when you are unwell you can’t imagine that you will ever feel better. And not just that; you can’t imagine that anything you might do to try and improve your mood could possibly ever work.

Whenever I feel better, I feel better in a way that I couldn’t have possibly imagined when I was feeling low.

I find metaphor a helpful way of trying to get a grip on my own experiences of mental health and communicate them to others( if you’re interested, have a look at my post on metaphor, mental health and online support).

I was searching for a metaphor that might help me and others better understand this phenomenon and I came up with the idea of two islands.

The islands

It’s as if my depressed, anxious mind and my healthy mind are two totally different islands. Continue reading

Five good things a day for World Mental Health Day and beyond..

Happy World Mental Health Day everyone!

Looking after your mental health

If you don’t have a diagnosed mental health issue then you’d be forgiven for thinking that dancinngWorld Mental Health day isn’t for you.

But we all have mental health in the same way we all have physical health – and that mental health needs to be understood and looked after to help us stay happier. And the better we do that, the more resilient we become. This means that when things do get difficult we’re more able to cope with them.

It’s pretty similar to physical health really – if we don’t look after ourselves we’re more vulnerable to colds, flu etc. And when we do get ill our overall health will help determine the speed of our recovery. Continue reading

Social media, mental health and mindfulness

Exploring the potential damage that social media can cause; promoting unrealistic representations of daily life and encouraging us all to make unhealthy comparisons with our internal experience.

It was only a few years ago that the idea that Facebook and other social networking sites could diminish happiness or affect wellbeing was still a relatively new one. Now there seems to be an article or news story claiming something similar every other week.

Is social networking good for your mental health?

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 21.26.55

How big is your discrepancy?

Mind recently published a blog from one of their Elefriends community members – ‘Is social networking good for your mental health’. It inspired an interesting debate on twitter which they collected together on Storify. As expected, there were tweets from people who found social media a lifeline, the only contact with the outside world, a supportive community of people who understood. Fabio Zuchelli writes a great post about the how Twitter can help when you’re depressed.

On the negative side of the debate were others who found trolls and haters bullied or upset them. And finally, most interesting for me, were the people who found social media difficult because of the comparisons it (almost) forces them to make. Continue reading

What dogs can teach us about wellbeing and mindfulness

How my dog helps me remember to be mindful through acceptance, curiosity, living in the moment and pure joy.

Be more dog?

O2’s recently launched  ‘Be more dog‘ campaign got me thinking. Their emphasis is on findingwatson blog excitement and joie de vivre in a world too bored and their aim is to sell their services. But since getting our collie Dr Watson seven months ago, I’ve realised that there is a lot that dogs can teach us.

Spending time with Watson reminds me of some of the core teachings of the Mindfulness Based Therapy for Depression course I completed last year.

Acceptance

Dogs are incredibly accepting. Watson takes his experiences as they come. He doesn’t make judgements about what is going on in his head or feel that he ‘should’ be feeling differently. He just feels.

Sometimes he feels rubbish for a bit – like when he naughtily eats old food he finds in the park and then throws up. Or when he gets told off for eating fluff out of his bed. But as soon as he feels better, he embraces it. He doesn’t dwell on the time he felt bad and let it seep into his better mood.

We can learn something from this. Humans have a tendency to judge our experiences all the time – often on auto pilot. We usually judge them as not being quite right in some way – thinking that this is not quite what should be happening, or not what we should be feeling. These can then lead into thoughts about blame and what could or should be different – “I shouldn’t be feeling like this, I’m always getting things wrong, things are always going to be like this”. We get sucked into ruminating and end up in those well worn grooves of negative thoughts. Continue reading

Pills and Pregnancy – when careless journalism damages vulnerable people

Pills panic

Sitting down at my desk this morning, I opened Twitter for my usual pre work browse. My eye was caught by this tweet, which linked to an article by the BBC ‘Antidepressants ‘could be risk to unborn babies”.

Of course, I clicked straight through. My recurrent depression and uneven support and information from mental health services means I have been on varying doses of Citalopram since I was 17 – almost 13 years now. For most of the last seven years I have been attempting to reduce my dose.

I have a range of support and techniques in place – Mindfulness, exercise, writing being the main ones. Despite these, I haven’t managed to get below 20mg. Above 20, all is well. Below 20, things become a slog, a constant joyless fight against endless rumination and negative fog.

I’m also almost 30 and with a long term partner. It won’t be long until I’m thinking more seriously about pregnancy. Future pregnancy is one of the reasons I am trying to cut down. I’ve been told in the past by doctors that they would always recommend a mother continued with appropriate antidepressants during pregnancy if she needs them – that a depressed mother is a much greater risk to a baby than anything else. But, ideally I’d rather not be taking them – especially given the occasional headlines about the risks. These tend to ‘trigger’ increased worry and rumination associated with depression. It’s not always rational – but depressive thoughts aren’t. Continue reading

Food, fat and flexible thinking – what’s so great about perfect anyway?!

Appearance is one of the main reasons for suicidal thoughts in the UK

According to Samaritans research, appearance is one of the main reasons for suicidal thoughtsScreen Shot 2013-10-26 at 09.40.33 in the UK. APPEARANCE.  This makes me very angry. But I can also completely understand why it is up there in the top three along with ‘feelings of failure’ and ‘academia’.

Food, fat and my thoughts about eating are one of the least clear and most complex aspects of managing my mental wellbeing. After all I have to eat every day. I can’t give up eating because it sometimes causes me mental anguish.

I have an athletic figure (that’s what I’d always go for when I did online dating anyway!). My body does amazing things for me – most recently a marathon in a time I was incredibly proud of. I’m not fat. To be honest, I never really have been.

My old teenage diaries would tell you otherwise. An angry blog post from Nothingbythebook recently triggered memories of what started my own difficult relationship with food. I was a girl like the one in the blog post. We didn’t have a TV and (at a risk of sounding overly romantic) I lived outside in hand me downs. My heroes were the ‘pirates’ in Swallows and Amazons. I remember a midnight feast I planned with friends in the garden where the more food we managed to acquire, the more gleeful we all became. Not once did I think ‘if I eat this, I’ll get fat’. And that’s how it should be. I haven’t felt that completely untainted glee at a pile of food since. Continue reading