How visiting a friend in hospital can affect our own Mental health.

On Monday night I visited a lady I know in the psychiatric ward.  There were a few feelings and emotions that I had no choice but to acknowledge, both before the visit, during and after the visit.

Anyone who has been in the psych ward will know the deep emotional connection we can have with it, the smells, the sounds, especially the aggressive sound of the alarm bell ringing, signalling staff members from other wards that help is needed, the staring faces, the atmosphere of sadness.

Whilst in the ward a few things occurred. First, a nurse who was on duty greeted me, asked me who I was seeing, told me she liked my earrings, all the while not recognising me as the same patient whom had been in her ward a mere few weeks ago. The blank look she gave me spoke volumes, sending a clear message, “I did not see you, really see you as a human, as a person whilst you were in hospital.

Sitting with my friend was a revelation.  As I experience my Bipolar with manic highs, sitting with someone who was suffering with her illness in an aggressive and frankly scary way shook me to my core.  She is an extremely clever lady and whilst with her she rattled off all the names of the people who had proposed to her, the list was never ending, starting with a list of celebrities, going on to a list of people she had known since childhood, her memory for names and places amazed me.  She has not yet accepted that she is ill and currently is refusing medication. She shouted at me that she was the Messiah and they are trying to kill her and silence her voice.  All in all it was  a scary experience.

It naturally made me draw comparisons, the exhaustion I felt after the visit, the low mood, the sadness I feel for her all compounded the emotional reaction I experienced from being in the ward as a visitor. It gave me more awareness of how different Mental Health Illness are experienced, it gave me gratitude that when I am unwell I am not aggressive, in fact I am the opposite, love flows freely, this is not diminishing anyone who suffers from the manic highs, rather it can be just as dangerous and terrifying as living with the illness experienced with lows or anger.

The thought kept and still does keep going around in my mind, asking myself if those who visit me in hospital feel the same or similar emotions after being with me?

The visit, though fleeting left a lasting impression, has affected my mood, things have seemed bleaker, regular situations  I have had to deal with this week have become mountains, my thinking has been black and white with regards to daily struggles, and once again I am experiencing transference to my therapist.  She is occupying far to much space in my mind, the feelings of love I have whilst feeling vulnerable are unhealthy  to the extreme, the panic knowing that I will not see her for 2 weeks overtaking me.  I believe all these are the result of a highly charged visit to the psychiatric ward.

We have to be so aware of “where we are emotionally” before carrying out certain activities, for example visiting the psych ward very soon after being released from one yourself, taking on to much and saying “yes” to everything is a warning sign.  There are times that we are able to help, be there, support and encourage those who need us, but when living with a Mental Health issue caution must always be taken.

Ethics of the Fathers 1:14 states, Hillel says ” If I am not for myself, who will be for me? but if I am only for myself who am I? If not now, when?” The genius of these words are so clear, and can be interpreted on so many levels. Each person will have their own way of looking at these words, taking their own message.

The message I see in these words is ” If not for myself who will be?  Who will look after me if I do not look after myself, who will keep my emotional health and wellbeing at the forefront if not me?”   He continues, “But if I am only for myself who am I?” It is interesting that Hillel started the verse with self care, self love telling us that  only once we have looked after ourselves, made sure we are healthy and well, can we then be there for others.

There is no one available to take your call…..

So, its been a while since I have heard those words, speaking to someone on the phone is a rare, strange, antiquated idea.  Why speak, when you can text, instant message, snapchat, tweet, WhatsApp  etc. etc.

Sending someone a message asking if they can talk usually is met with silence whilst they stroke their chin thoughtfully pondering the correct response to such an unusual and absurd suggestion.

Therapists, especially therapists, NEED! to answer immediately to a message, its a thing us in therapy know, if they don’t answer when we NEED them it is to quote Anne (with an E…great Netflix show!) “truly tragical”.

In our minds, at certain times, especially when we are feeling low or vulnerable sending a message to our therapist is our call out, we want to feel remembered, that we are of some importance to them, that they are there for us. Its a little like a child  meeting a teacher outside of school, children worldwide are continuously shocked that a teacher has a life outside school ( who knew… huh !) Surely the teacher/therapist is sitting, quietly awaiting her pupil/client to show up, contemplating everything that was discussed at the last lesson/session. Her thoughts completely focused on that particular person.

Some things a therapist does not have are these:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Shopping to do
  • Chores or other issues to deal with
  • Work
  • Other clients
  • Appointments
  • Their own issues and worries
  • Other places to go/other people to see.
  • Holidays
  • Self care time
  • Illness
  • Childcare

And the list goes on.

The last couple weeks have been stressful, lots of different sad situations coming my way, so obviously am feeling a wee bit vulnerable.  If I messaged a friend and they did not reply, I would (rarely) A. pick up the phone to them. B. wonder if I had done something to upset them, and then pick up the phone and call  them. C. Get mad at them and then pick up the phone and call them. D. Forget about it and then eventually pick up the phone and call them.

The relationship to a therapist is obviously unique, as much as we would sometimes like them to be, or on a bad day even have a little fantasy that they are our friends ( or mother/father… but that’s a whole different conversation) they are not, and they have boundaries which can not be crossed.

It is difficult though to remember that even if your ( or mine.. because ultimately I am actually talking to myself here) therapist does not reply immediately, or one day later or two, or even acknowledges your message at all, that does not mean that they  think you (or me) are:

  • Annoying
  • Needy
  • Demanding
  • Pathetic
  • Have no boundaries
  • Selfish
  • Not important
  • your issues are meaningless ( to those they see with “real” issues).

And any other millions of tangled messages your brain sends to you, hitting you over and over again, bringing down your self love and self esteem.

I know that I and others, will scribble a message and press send, swearing or “shouting ” at the therapist, telling them in our frustration that we don’t need them, want them, they are no good anyway etc, then quickly try to “delete for everyone” in the warped hope that maybe they would have glanced at the message, and seen you have deleted a message, and as a consequence we hope they have thought of us, even if for  a fleeting moment.

So, next time your feeling low, and really really need some care from your therapist, here’s something to try…. write a blog!

 

Mental Health Awareness Day.

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day.

From a personal view every day is mental health awareness day, and not only for me, but for the millions of people who live with a mental health condition.

It is an admirable endeavor, creating a day focused on Mental Health Awareness, but I find the similarities to other times where awareness is heightened and then forgotten about are clear, take Christmas for example where homelessness is the big “thing”, organizations like Shelter campaign tirelessly for the homeless, adverts tell us that £20 can pay for a meal, clothes and a shower for those on the streets, and then, Christmas comes and goes and those campaigns are forgotten about until the next year.

The same goes with Mental Health awareness, in one day we will all experience mental health in some form, whether it is healthy, positive mental health or unhealthy, developing in to illness, or need for some form of psychiatric help.

To a large extent unless a family member/community member/dr or friend takes action when someone’s mental health is suffering a person can go through incredible pain emotionally and physically, the age old stigma we have all heard, when discussing mental health sadly still applies, “why is mental health treated any differently to physical health” we all know that saying, we have probably used it in some form ourselves, yet the stigma is still strong, in fact I have been told not to write about mental health, to keep it quiet, as it is a shameful secret, and I wonder, and ask myself why, why after all these years, with all the information, mental health organizations, and awareness days is it still a shameful secret?

There are positive aspects though, and one of those is the organization I work for JAMI. JAMI is an organization focused on Mental Health Recovery, it focuses on the positive, the recovery rather than the negative. We have social workers, Occupational therapists, benefit advisors, support groups and so much more. I am honored to work for an organization where I see on daily basis clients arriving, feeling welcomed, knowing that no one will judge them, no one will view them as “different”, where people are treated with the respect all humans are entitled to.
It is an honor to work for an organization such as JAMI, and I have learned so much through my position here, I have learned that deep down we are all the same, we all crave care and love and respect for who we are.
Each person who comes through the door at JAMI know they are wanted and welcomed, no matter what stage of mental health they are at.
Mental Health awareness day is of course a necessity but until we all are able to stand up, be counted and accept our own and others mental health, there is still a long way to go.

FND

This is a hard one to write.

I have a problem with my breathing, having had scan after scan and test after test today I realised that it is more than likely a symptom of my FND.

This time last year I had never heard of FND, but now after my experience of loosing the use of my arm leg and speech for approx 10 days I have read quite a bit about it.

FND ( Functional Neurological Disorder) is still an unknown condition, sadly many GP’s do not have the knowledge or training to fully appreciate the disorder.

If I go to the Dr say with constant headaches, the Dr eventually sends me for an MRI, the MRI comes back normal, the Dr then concludes it is migraine. Does the Dr tell you that because all the tests were normal you are imagining it? The symptoms are in your head? One would hope not, but tragically many patients who have FND are still told that .

09F71DB0-E916-4538-8C53-F7AF03404FC5.jpegFND is slowly being more recognized, historically thought to be bought on by past trauma or recent trauma the symptoms are vast, worse case scenario, a sufferer looses the use of his arms legs or speech, tremors occur, tics, short temper , sleep disturbances, abnormal breathing, loss of muscle coordination, attacks of abnormal movement, loss of vision … the list goes on.

There are some illness’s that it’s accepted, probably even expected a patient will suffer from depression, for example a patient with multiple sclerosis may fear the future the uncertainty of not knowing how the illness will affect them as time goes by, but with FND there is a reluctance to talk about the depression or anxiety it can bring, along with the very real symptoms.

A person may be worried people will think it’s imagined, that they choose to be experiencing these symptoms that if they would just get over it they would be fine. The stigma of FND is akin to the stigma of mental health issues.

0D83F27C-F24E-4198-BABC-22DCFF3AF0E4.jpegFND is real. It is a neurological disorder that no one chooses to have .

It is not “in our heads”

It is not “ in our ability to get over it”

It affects people’s lives daily.

 

Knowing I have FND, has given me to some extent comfort, when my face twitches due to my breathing issues I know this is not “my fault”, putting a label on something can sometimes be a positive.

FND research and dr’s in general being given more specialized training is progressing, but there is a long way to go.

I am afraid of FND as it is so unknown, Every time I feel weakness in my arms and legs I ask myself is this FND and am I going to end up back in hospital unable to speak or move.

 

I would love your thoughts if you suffer from FND.

Lots of love

sara

The finish line in the distance…

Its been around 4 years since I met my therapist, living in a tight knit community it was important to me that my therapist have some idea of the life I had led and the intricacies of community life, luckily a friend happened to be a friend of the person who would become my support, my crutch and my advisor for the next approx. 4 years.

She has been the one I have turned to whilst in shock, she has been the person whom I have trusted to hold so much of my pain and hurt.

When choosing a therapist I would advise seeking someone who understands your background and your way of life, although it can cause complications, my therapist for example has family in my neighbourhood, we have friends in common and so on, this can cause issues with boundaries, and can cause the client to become to attached and lines can be crossed. There have been times where I knew she was aware of things happening within my family, for example when a family member went missing and she was receiving messages from the community to keep an eye out for him, or when I am aware of certain things going on in her family, but it can be a great source of comfort and can make the whole therapy journey easier.

Seeing her for so many years on a regular basis, pretty much every week, sometimes every other week,  I have grown to feel very close to her ( In a purely therapeutic way!), that is why what is coming up is so very hard, but so necessary. I think the longest I have gone without seeing her is around 2 months, and it was so very hard.

The aim I feel, of therapy is to get to a point where you can end it, where you can say, the work has been done, I may have times I need to come back, but now I have the tools and skills to do this without my therapist.

It can be, and usually is a very scary thought for anyone who has been in therapy for a while to feel that the journey is nearing its end, you have opened your heart and soul, have bared your deepest thoughts and feelings and trusted this person with things you would not share with anyone else.  The feeling of closeness a person has with their therapist is so complex, it is a one sided relationship in the sense that whilst you may know basic things about your therapist, you will never spend time socially with them, you can never give back emotionally to them and will never be a part of their lives. Yet I am sure, that most therapists, who have been seeing a client for many years will naturally feel a closeness to the client, and I have for so long clung to the hope that this is how my therapist views me, and when the time comes to part, maybe, just maybe she will miss me.

There are signs to look out for that can point you in the direction you need, for example, when a person is not feeling great, whether they have a mental health issue which is affecting them, or living through a stressful time, they may automatically think about their therapist more, may even obsess about the therapist, especially with issues such as  bi polar which often causes obsessive thinking. At such times it is probably best not to be considering ending therapy as the thoughts if not dealt with in the correct way can escalate quickly, but, if on such occasions you are able to live with the thoughts, think about them in a rational, non emotional way and let the thoughts pass, you are probably on the path to reduce or end therapy.

Feeling anger at your therapist is also a good pointer, recently I have felt some anger at her, which is oddly enough a good thing, it means you are able to view your therapist as a human, realise that they also make mistakes and are not some other worldly, angelic figure you may have spent years idolising.

Another sign to look out for is feeling that the world is not coming to an end if you do not see your therapist for a couple of weeks, that you will not be sending him/her message after message and that even though you may think about them, may even send the odd message, the thought is ok, the feeling is not one of desperation, of feeling you will not cope until the next time you see them.

I will not be seeing her this week, and I did not see her last week, the thought is worrying me, and yes I am already storing things up to tell her, but I know that I can do it, the Bi Polar part of me is stable, I have learned and have the tools to deal with any near episodes, and whilst I know that I am not yet ready to completely bid her farewell, its a great feeling knowing that I am slowly, very slowly getting there.

Please do not end therapy if you are not 100% sure you are ready, take it slowly, figure it out together, and know with certainty that you can do this.

This one is dedicated to Her….

I have spent the last 24 hours thinking about this post, how to format it, how to write it and what to say. There is so much I can say about this, but it will get sooooooooooo boring, the subject I want to chat about is Therapy.

Recently I had a conversation with someone, it went something like this:

Me ” I have just finished reading this really good book about therapy, I highly recommend it”

Her ” Na, I don’t really believe in therapy for adults, you can always speak to a friend, rav, or your husband”

Me ” hey, don’t knock it till you try it”

Her ” well, a person only needs therapy if they have really bad emotional difficulties”

Me “ok, whatever” ( yup- great comeback I know)

I am a proud therapy goer for approx 15 years, ( yes I must have so many deep, crazy, psychological issues). I believe that everybody should have a therapist, and THERE IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. In fact the opposite, a therapist, in my humble opinion is the same as a dr, just for the mind.

It happened on Friday that I cut off a chunk of skin from my thumb, now a well meaning friend happened to be in the house, try as she did we could not get it to stop bleeding, I texted my friends and family in a panic, whilst blood went everywhere asking what to do, yet it still did not stop bleeding. So I called Hatzola (the jewish paramedic service), the Hatzola guys are all trained and know exactly what they are doing… my point… all the well meaning friends, all the concerned family could not help, only someone trained with knowledge of the issue managed to fix it. Should it not be the same with emotional issues, which in general are so much deeper and have more impact on our lives then a cut thumb.

A quote from the above mentioned great book I recently finished ( Therapy Shmerapy by Mindy Blumenfeld) the quote is not exact as I do not have the book with me, she writes of a scenario, a young newly married couple are having issues with financies, they can not seem to agree how to mange their money, so they pop along to their local friendly Rabbi/priest/Iman/ bar man/ Scientology leader / postman … for a chat. He advises them how to open up joint accounts, or how to save their money, they leave big smiles on their faces, all is peaceful. A week later the couple come back with another issue they cant agree on, and so it continues.  The  Priest /Rabbi … ( You get the idea) try as he may can not get to the bottom of the problem, and may realise that there is something far deeper then not being able to sort out financies or how to run their home. For the deeper, root cause of the issue they need to see someone who is trained to do exactly that, get to the bottom of the issue, someone who knows through her training what to ask, what to do etc.

A friend, no matter how close, no matter how deep your friendship Has her own views and can not be objective due to her relationship to you. Do you really want to discuss matter close to your heart regarding your children, husband/ partner, family, knowing that she will come in to close maybe daily contact with all those people?

A few years ago, I met a family relative, he runs the Relief organisation in Canada, he said something that I found to be so on the mark. Whilst talking about therapy, he said “we have come to a point where people would say without shame that their child is in therapy, hopefully in a few years we will come to a point where people could admit without shame that they are in therapy”

So why the shame? why the secret? Think about what therapy enables us to do, it enables us to delve deeper in to the workings of our mind, it frees our thoughts from the prison it can create for us, it opens up a deeper understanding of our relationships, and our daily struggles.  When a person takes the step and sees a therapist for whatever reason, she should never be ashamed, she should be proud, proud that she is seeking the answers, proud that the anxiety, the depression, the fear, the suffering she is experiencing is going to be explored. Proud that she refuses to sweep the issue under the carpet. Proud that she will become a deeper friend, a more loving wife, have more patience, time and love for her children or co-workers.

Before I end this to long post I want to slip in a few words about my therapist… if there was a way of making clones, there should be a clone of her in every town in the world. Once a week I sit in her room, it used to be the big room with the amazing mirror which looked like a hundred shattered mirrors put back together (oh I do miss looking at the mirror…to me it represented what therapy is) but now we are in the smaller room, the cosier room, with the walls lined with holy books, the bottle of water I know will always be there even though I never drink, the tissues which I thought I would never use (how wrong I was) Often my eyes scan the books, and I wonder, does she think I am being nosy, I am not ( really …I’m not) I sometimes find it hard to meet her eye, as I am afraid of what I may see in them, but in reality all I have ever seen, is care, concern and the want to help me be a better self.

My therapist has been the oxygen where there is none. She has been the sun, straining to be seen through the clouds, she has been the home where I can park all my worries, all my fears, all my doubts. She has gone above and beyond for me, she has shown me that I am a person of worth, a person who has something to contribute to society. She has seen me cry, cry in a way that I never dreamt I would in front of another person. She has seen me at the worst of times, and never have I felt judged by her… shouldn’t we all want such a person in our lives.

To all those people who say “I don’t need therapy” “only people with no friends, family etc need therapy” “therapy is for people with severe emotional issues” this post is for you. YOU are the ones that need it the most, because you are missing out on changing your life from a shallow, false living to a real, wonderful and deep life.

And so, to my lovely therapist  this post is dedicated to you.

 

lots of love

Sara 

 

 

 

 

 

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