The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘health’

Eat food, not feelings

Each of us experience stress in different ways and I thought it might be a good idea to share some of these differences. There is no “one size fits all”. It looks different and feels different for everyone, even though there are some similarities amongst us. I would like to introduce you to Carlie, a mum and business owner. She knows what it’s like to be hit with real life and the curve balls that can be thrown at us. Here she shares a small part of her life and how she has worked to change some of the habits that creep up on us when we are in the middle of the messy stuff. Carlie has learned some great lessons through it all and now wants to share them with others. Check out her links below her story … 

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I’m an emotional eater from way back. I never really knew that I was, until my younger brother passed away. People were constantly bringing food over to our house. I would pick away at it, partly for something to do with my hands and partly to fill a void which could never actually be filled with food. Suddenly I was 9 kilos heavier. I certainly wasn’t obese, but you can definitely feel 9kgs difference in your clothes and I didn’t like it.

I realised that this was a habit I’d had for a long time. When I was feeling stressed I would find myself looking for ‘comfort food’. It’s funny how we say that in an almost affectionate way – ‘comfort food’. We give children a sugary ‘treat’ as a reward. Just the other day I was in a shop and the attendant could see that my toddler had been crying. He handed her a lollipop to make her ‘feel better’. Drowning our emotions with ‘bad food’ is something that is often ingrained in us from a young age.

Throughout the stress I was feeling following my brothers passing and my fathers subsequent break down, I knew the emotional eating was something I needed to get under control. I somehow convinced the doctor to prescribe me diet pills so that I could ‘reset’ my bad habit and start fresh. Looking back, it was just a different way of treating my body really badly. I lost weight but I certainly wasn’t healthy. And it’s pretty hard to be happy when you’re not healthy.

Over the years that followed, I began a journey which involved a whole lot of soul searching and many hours of research and learning about food, health and wellbeing. I was amazed at how different I felt once I shifted my mindset. I started looking at food as fuel, not as a reward or as therapy or anything else. It’s just there to give us energy and nutrients. Of course we should enjoy it, I love food and I eat lots of it! But I make healthy choices now. I have learnt to eat in a way that nourishes my body and makes me feel alive. I know which foods weigh me down and zap my energy, and I know which foods energise me.

Happy and free carlie guest post stress

As a busy mum, feeling energetic and positive is so important. I need to make sure I am looking after me so that I can respond to my cheeky monkey with positivity and patience. It’s also very important to me that I provide a good example for my daughter and help her to develop a healthy relationship with food. I want her to love her body and treat it well, even as she approaches hurdles in her life.

In those times when I am really feeling stretched or frazzled or slumpy, the times when I might have turned to junk food in the past, I now try to catch myself in that moment and take a different approach. Instead of turning to food, I turn to one of what I like to call my ‘happiness islands’. Everyone’s happiness islands are different, but mine include a walk in the sunshine, a dance around the lounge room to my favourite song, a long hot shower, a class at the gym, an afternoon nap, a massage or a trip to the hairdresser. I find that the lounge room dance party is a popular favourite as it can be done at the drop of a hat, and I can include my daughter. She has a ball dancing around with mummy, and we are both giggling by the end of it. It shakes up the energy, makes the mind shift gears and most importantly it gets the endorphins pumping.

Have a think about it – what are your happiness islands? Is there something you can do next time you are feeling stressed out that is constructive and energising for you? If you would like to learn more about healthy living, please have a look at www.morethanmum.com.au/whatson

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headshot carlie guest post stressCarlie Burton is the author of More Than Mum, creator of ‘Find the U in Mum’ as well as ‘Shine Like a Diamond’. She is the mother of a 15 month old little girl and lover of all things health, fitness and natural living.

www.morethanmum.com.au

www.facebook.com/morethanmumblog

www.instagram.com/morethanmum

www.shinelikeadiamond.com.au/yes

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Self-Esteem

bowl of self esteem

Self-Esteem is a “respect for or a favourable opinion of oneself” according to dictionary.com.

The second part of this is probably the easier to explore, so let’s look at it first. A “favourable opinion of oneself”. To think and believe highly of yourself. To know that you are worthy. To understand that you have skills and talents that the world would miss if you weren’t in it. To understand that you deserve love. To love yourself, and every part of you. Even the parts not usually “acceptable” in society – the flabby bits on your body, the tendency to say things without thinking first, or even the habit of procrastinating on doing the things most important to you. Whatever it is you hate about yourself.

Let’s have a look at the first part. A “respect for oneself”. Do you respect yourself? Enough to stand up for your rights? Enough to walk away from people who mistreat you or take you for granted? Enough to create and enforce boundaries? Enough to take the actions necessary to protect your time, energy, space, body, emotions and spirit? Do you respect yourself enough to find and follow your passion? To share your special gifts with the world? Enough to allow your unique and wonderful spirit to soar?

I believe all of these to be the most important things we can do for ourselves. I have personally discovered that without them, one lives a half-life. We simply exist, instead of live. We experience dissatisfaction, negativity and often self-hatred.

Self-esteem is multi-faceted. It is complex. It’s dynamic and changing. It will fluctuate as things happen in your life. Your sense of self as a child was certainly different to when you were 20. And that was certainly different to what it is right in this moment, here and now.

Are you happy with the way you feel about yourself right now? Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Is there anything about yourself that you would like to change? Is there anything you’re unhappy with? Your size? Your appearance? Maybe your finances or the way you speak to your family? Your education or employment?

Whatever it may be, the chances are that the answer is not in fixing the things you’re unhappy with.

If you learned to love and accept yourself unconditionally, you’d look at the world differently. You wouldn’t need to shed weight to be lovable. You wouldn’t need to change your body to be beautiful. You wouldn’t need to get a better job or earn more money to be worthy. And you wouldn’t need to stop speaking without thinking. Instead, it would simply be one of the little quirks to love about yourself.

Self-love and unconditional acceptance would allow you to feel free. To feel centred and whole and complete. You would naturally allow your spirit to soar, you would eagerly follow your passions and show the world your unique skills and talents. You would generate and send out love to those around you. And you’d tackle challenges with faith and surety that everything will turn out exactly the way it is meant to.

This month’s focus will explore all of these issues. We’ll talk about boundaries, accomplishments, spirit, skills, unique talents, purpose, beauty and more. If you would like to read about something specific, please comment below, on our Facebook or Twitter feeds, or flick us an email at mindseteffect@optusnet.com.au, and we’ll endeavor to meet your needs.

 

 

What I’ve Learned about Self-Care

This article is a guest post from someone who really understands what it’s like to need to practice self-care. This lady lives every day with the knowledge that if she pushes her body too far it could break down and stop her living her purpose. I am proud to introduce you to my friend Madeleine; a free, creative and intuitive spirit.

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Her bio reads:

Madeleine bio

Madeleine is a writer who also enjoys a number of other creative pursuits, including songwriting, singing, fashion design and modelling. She is also passionate about personal and spiritual growth and alternative healing.

 Madeleine lives with the constant knowledge of what it’s like to struggle through each day – for many years she’s had CFS/FM combined with autonomic dysfunction. Although she directly understands the challenge of balancing a meaningful lifestyle with chronic symptoms, she regards herself as a warrior – not a sufferer. And she strongly encourages others to hold the same perspective, for it is the struggles of life that lead to the development of inner strength and empowerment.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNT ABOUT SELF CARE:

It’s powerful. It’s healing. It’s multifaceted. It’s a process that is ultimately life-changing.

Do these sound like overstatements? Perhaps they do, depending on where you currently sit on the self-esteem continuum.

To me, that opening paragraph certainly would have sounded unbelievable – even laughable – had I read it when I was a lot younger and didn’t understand the power of self-care and its broad implications.bowl of self esteem

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t suffer from some degree of damage to their self-esteem. Some of us are sharply aware of our corroded sense of self-worth. Some of us are not.

I was initially in the latter category – in denial. As a teenager, I was already a professional success in a number of creative fields. I simply couldn’t see – or maybe didn’t want to see – that my self-esteem was low because I felt very confident in my abilities.

It was the curse/gift of illness that forced me to honestly examine myself. I realised then that our self images are multifaceted. In my case, although I had a good appreciation of my talents and a strong sense of myself as a writer/singer/dancer, I still felt that WHO I was did not deserve love, acceptance, respect, care or nourishment on any level.

And so the learning process began…

I learned that self-care (which is married to self-esteem) has multiple components, hence the ripple effect on the many areas of our lives.

For me, the first component of self-care was learning to nurture my body and take appropriate action to get my physical needs met. Sometimes, perfect health may not always be a blessing because it can blind us to our self-mistreatment. We race through our daily routines, our minds focused elsewhere, while we neglect our body’s need for proper nutrition, adequate rest, or balanced exercise. In many cases, we abuse our bodies with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, strain/overwork and other unhealthy habits. The body is a miraculous machine or vehicle, and it deserves to be treated with care and respect. If we fail to do this, we will inevitably become unwell. I learned the hard way that it’s not worth waiting until our vehicle breaks down before we start being kind to it.

On the psychological level, I came to understand that self-care has many elements and is very broad in scope. It encompasses nurturing ourselves emotionally, releasing all self-judgment, clearing toxic feelings and beliefs that negate us in any way, forgiving ourselves, standing up for ourselves, voicing our rights, protecting our hearts from hurt, recognising our true, immeasurable worth and essentially loving, accepting and respecting ourselves unconditionally.

Phew! Making all those attitudinal adjustments and changes is clearly not an overnight process! Indeed, it is a journey of growth that leads to empowerment. I’m still walking the path because there is always more to learn, particularly when life keeps placing us in situations that continuously challenge us in different ways.

But every step along the path is worth it. Because we are worth the effort it takes and the rewards we reap from caring for every dimension of ourselves. And what’s more, it isn’t only ourselves who benefit. This is by no means a purely selfish practice. I know it might sound like a cliché, but it really is true that if you can’t love and care for yourself, then you cannot do the same for another. After all, how can an empty vessel fill another? The greater your capacity to love and care for yourself, the greater your capacity to give and make a valuable contribution to the lives of others. 

 

And ultimately, that’s what we’re here for.

 carer serenity scene

The importance of self-care

refresh your mindset

When I think about self-care I can’t help but think about its opposite. What happens when we don’t take care of ourselves? When we go through the day without taking down-time? If it’s only for one day the effects are probably minimal. But what happens when it’s day after day, week after week, or even year after year?

I’ve met people who go through their lives on such high alert that when I suggest they try taking 10 minutes to do nothing, the thought of it has them freaking out! And if they try to actually do it, they feel restless, anxious, upset and lost!!

And then you get people on the other end of the spectrum, like me, who constantly give all their energy away. By the end of the day they have nothing left, and their bodies shut them down. They literally can’t move off the couch until it’s time to crawl into bed.self care fill cup

So what’s actually happened for someone who experiences these states? It’s highly likely that they are stressed. Many people believe that stress isn’t real. That it’s some made up condition. Let me rebuff that myth.

Stress is very real. It is a physiological response to some kind of threat. It’s an instinctual event that happens automatically. You do not control it, it controls you. That is, the body response is in charge. You can however manage your response and minimise its impact on your body and your life.

Glenda from Healthy Stories recently wrote a fabulous article about stress and how you can recognise when you’re in its midst. Check it out! It also has some great tips on how you can work with your body and lessen the impact stress has.

http://healthystories.com.au/2014/07/stress-free-life-stress-management-strategies/

self care possibilities

I think the most important thing you can do with this information is to figure out what is going to work for you. We are all individuals and every single body is different. And that means we all need different strategies to help us feel calm and centred.

worth taking care ofI know what it’s like to live in a constantly stressed body. I have lived it for a decade or more. My mind and body were completely disconnected from one another. It’s taken me a while to even figure out that what I was experiencing had the name “stress”. Working out how to reconnect my mind and body has been quite the task, and the process continues. I have taken time to rediscover how my body feels during and after exercise. I’ve taken time to discover how my mind and body feel after some guided visualisation and mindfulness practice. I’ve discovered many different things about myself. I’ve explored, tried some things out and learned a whole heap. I continue to learn. I have discovered that I really like who I am. And when I take time to regularly look after myself, I function much better during the day, I am much calmer, happier and more peaceful, and I love who I am.

Can’t ask for much more than that, right?

Are you prepared to embark on your own journey of exploration?

Self-Care for Parents

A short, sharp post for you all today. I simply wanted to share a snippet with you from a little while ago, when I was offered the opportunity to write a guest blog post for a fellow blogger, Shanelle Schick.

Shanelle has a site that supports mums and helps them get their mummy mojo back.

My blog post, titled “The greatest gift you can give your children” was born to help parents look at how they look after themselves. Quite often their own self-care is placed at the bottom of the list behind all the other things vying for their attention. However, prioritising their own self-care usually means the entire family is likely to benefit. They often experience more joy, happiness and serenity.

I’d love it if you’d check out the post.

http://connection-coaching.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/the-greatest-gift-you-can-give-your.html

And I’d encourage you to check out Shanelle’s site, it’s packed full of great information for new mums.

body scan pose

The Kind Elf

Earlier in the year I created a group workshop for my clients at work and named it “The Kind Elf”. When I think about the image this phrase invokes, a number of words and images come into my head.

A kindly elf administering care to someone. A team of people providing help to a person in need. Presents being delivered to disadvantaged children. Support. Love. Care.

rest

I’m sure that many of us would be more than willing to help out someone who needed support. Australians are well-known for their mate-ship. We’re famous for it around the globe.

But what about when it comes to ourselves? It seems that while we are forever willing to provide support to others, we hate admitting that we need it ourselves. It takes us to be almost falling apart to recognise that we need to be taken care of. We like to think of ourselves as strong as the energizer bunny. We like to think we have the ability to go and go and go and go, without the need to stop and recharge our energy. We hate to admit any kind of “weakness” (and I use the quote marks deliberately). We beat ourselves up for getting tired and needing rest, and yet we freely acknowledge that other people deserve and need to take some down-time.

So how does that work? If it’s ok for other people to take time out to recharge, why isn’t ok for ourselves? Are we so caught up in the martyrdom that we can’t see the forest for the trees? Are we so arrogant to believe we are above the human condition of needing to rest our bodies?

That probably sounds harsh to a number of you reading this but that is what it essentially comes down to. We are all human beings and our bodies are designed to need rest. We need it to grow new cells, to regenerate skin and organs, to heal. Even to learn.

And yet we allow ourselves to get caught up in the daily grind that is life. We believe the media hype that to be better people we need to do more, strive for more, be more, get more. That unless we run ourselves into the ground we aren’t good enough.

So let’s stop the bullshit right here. We are good enough. YOU are good enough. Simply because you exist. Simply because you breathe the air. You deserve to take care of yourself.

So stand up and claim your birthright.

Be your own kind elf.

beach sunrise terrigal

Take Care of You!

You are worthy. Simply because you exist.

By definition, the fact that you are alive, that you breathe the air, that you walk this earth, is enough reason to justify your worthiness.

There are no conditions on this.

No “I can only be worthy if everyone likes me”

No “I can only be worthy if I please everyone in my life”

No “I can only be worthy if I work myself to the bone”

No “I can only be worthy if I take care of as many people as I can”

No “I can only be worthy if I do favours for other people”

No “I can only be worthy if …..” (insert any other idea your brain gives you)

When we put conditions on the way we love ourselves, we restrict so many things in our lives. You end up doing everything you can to please other people or working so many hours you never get time to yourself. Or taking care of everyone except yourself. Or doing things for other people to the extent that you never get time to do the things you enjoy. (Insert any other condition your brain conveniently provides).

Those conditions come about for a variety of reasons. Most of the time we receive certain messages and our beliefs about ourselves are formed by listening to them. They can be subtle or they can be said outright. We hear and interpret the words and we learn to say them to ourselves. We believe them.

Here are a couple of facts:

Those messages are always untrue. The words we use sound true. The emotions attached to the words feel true. However, they always lie. Always.

There is no justification.

The truth is indisputable.

You are worthy of being taken care of.

Simply because you are alive. Simply because you were born.

take care of you mindseteffect

30 Things to do to Yourself

The other day I came across an article that listed 30 things that people needed to stop doing to themselves in order to feel happy and fulfilled. It proclaimed, “when you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you”. You can see the full article here if you’re interested.

The thing is, the language used in this post is worded in the negative. Don’t do this, don’t do that. When I read things phrased in this way I often end up wondering what I CAN do if not the things listed. The brain cannot tell the difference between them. If I told you to NOT, under any circumstances, think about a red car, I’m willing to bet that the first thing that comes to mind is a red car.

So, when we tell ourselves NOT to do something, our brains literally block out the “NOT”. Have you ever tried to tell a child not to run on wet concrete? I bet they run faster! Have you tried telling a child not to eat the chocolate bar in the fridge? I bed the next time you walk by, the chocolate bar will have disappeared and you can see smears across his or her mouth. If you want a child to follow your instructions, you need to tell him/her what TO do, rather than what NOT to do. Walk along the concrete. Eat the grapes (and put the chocolate bar out of sight).

So, I decided to rewrite it. And rephrase it. Let me know what you think:

  1. Spend time with happy people who support you – spending time with people who drain you is tiring! Find some silent presencepeople will stand by you when you’re at your worst.
  2. Face your problems – Yes, it’s hard work. Every person on the planet finds it challenging to face difficult situations. We are built to flounder. To feel emotions such as sadness or hurt. To stumble. Learning and adapting helps mold us into the person we are meant to be.
  3. Be truthful with yourself – it really does help you make those adjustments and to step up when you face difficulties.
  4. Put your own needs first – you are special too, and you deserve to be taken care of. Allow yourself to follow your passion and do something that matters to you.
  5. Be your true self – allow yourself to be who you really are and you will naturally attract the right people who love you.
  6. Allow yourself to move forward and take new opportunities.
  7. Make friends with failure – you learn so much more from getting things wrong than getting them right. Every success has a series of failures behind it. Every time you fail, you get closer to success.
  8. Let go of past mistakes – mistakes help us find the things and the people who are right for us. Every error teaches you something and prepares you for the things that are right for you. Right here, right now, you have the power to shape your future.
  9. Allow happiness to find you – the things that satisfy us are totally free. Take note of the little things and allow them to fill your heart with joy.
  10. Look for happiness within yourself – looking to others for your happiness is fraught with danger and opens you up to being controlled by the other person’s moods. Create your own stability and own your own power for happiness. It starts with what is on the inside.
  11. Be prepared to go after what you want – you can’t make it to your goal unless you take the first step. Take some risks. Make decisions and take decisive action on what you want.
  12. Allow yourself to grab opportunities outside your comfort zone – it’s common to feel uncomfortable when
    found on art.com

    found on art.com

    opportunities present themselves. You may not feel ready, but you don’t have to be. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

  13. Fall in love for the right reasons – there is no need to rush. Allow it to happen when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Be open to new relationships – even when old ones didn’t work. There is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some are to teach you what you don’t need in your life.
  15. Run your own race – when you compete with others you do yourself a disservice. Competing takes you away from being your true self.
  16. Count your blessings – you always have something that is worth feeling blessed for. Why would you bother keeping track of someone else’s blessings when you have your own?
  17. Be prepared to get back up when you fall down – life is full of challenges and falling down is inevitable. When you reflect back on those moments you’ll often find they led you to a better place or situation.
  18. Let go of grudges – allow love to fill your heart and let the hate go. When you hold onto grudges you end up hurting yourself more than the person it’s directed toward.
  19. Raise your standards – if you keep your standards above those of the people around you, your heart will always be full.
  20. Give yourself permission to make your own decisions – if you listen to your heart you will always know what to do. There is no need to justify or explain yourself to others.
  21. restTake a break – especially when you feel like you don’t have time for one. The perfect time to take some breaths is when you feel the most stressed.
  22. Find the beauty in the small moments – the best parts of your days will be the small moments. Enjoy them.
  23. Enjoy the imperfections – nothing is ever perfect. It doesn’t exist.
  24. Embrace challenges – some things are not easy. Especially the things that mean the most to you. Embrace the challenge and work for what you want.
  25. Allow yourself to cry – it’s ok to fall apart sometimes, you don’t have to suck it up all the time. You don’t need to have things going well all the time. Crying is cathartic and healing. It gets rid of toxins in your system and cleanses your emotions.
  26. Take responsibility for your life – and your decisions. When you blame others you allow them to control you. Own your power by owning your decisions and actions.
  27. Choose what you do wisely – trying to be everything to everyone will very quickly drain you of your energy and burn you out. Make your choices based on the things that are most important to you.
  28. Let go of your worries – at least some of them. Ask yourself if this situation will matter in one year. What about in three years? Or five? If the answer is no, let it go.
  29. Focus on what you want to happen – rather than on what you don’t want to happen. By doing this you train your brain to look for the opportunities and the blessings.
  30. Be grateful – find 5 things each day that you are grateful for. You’ll soon find yourself inundated with the beautiful blessings in life rather than the missing links.

gratitude breathe it in

Who cares for the carers?

People with mental illness usually have a support team around them. Psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, social workers, general practitioners. People in mental health organisations such as the Richmond Fellowship (this link is QLD but you can google other states). People handing out medications and people providing emotional support. For the most part, these people do fabulous work in paving the way to wellness.

mental health stigma

But there is a whole other population that often gets overlooked. The family and friends. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. The carers. They are often excluded from treatment due to “confidentiality”. How do carers help monitor medications if they don’t have accurate information about which prescriptions to fill or how many tablets are needed? How do they help regulate moods if they aren’t up to speed on which strategies have been used in therapy? And that also means they are unable to provide feedback to give the professional team a full picture of what is happening for their loved one. While I can’t speak for all carers, I know that the ones I have spoken to genuinely want to help support the road to wellness. And they want to respect personal space and privacy.

During periods of illness, carers are often confronted with some pretty tough stuff. Major mood swings. Irrational demands. Thought processes that aren’t based in reality. An inability to reason. Violence; to self and others. Hospital visits. Self-harm. Suicide attempts. Manipulation. Sometimes even homicidal tendencies. And they are often in the middle of the fray, caught up in the maelstrom of chaos.

carer head chaos

Chaos

Watching the people they love most in the world go through these experiences is heartbreaking. You watch your spouse with depression stay in bed day after day, week after week. You know that they are in pain and you try everything you know to help them. Encouragement, tough love, praise, cajoling, bringing friends in. You try talking to the doctors but you don’t get anywhere because they can’t talk back. You take over the running of the household, managing the children, cooking, cleaning. And you listen to your husband or wife talk about their inner pain and how much better off you and the children would be without him or her in it. You feel helpless and scared. What if they kill themselves? You wonder what else you can do to help. You don’t always understand why they can’t get themselves out of bed and rejoin the family. You feel lonely because the partner you knew isn’t there anymore. You feel alone because you don’t have your best friend to bounce things off. And you feel hopeless and helpless because the professional team won’t talk to you and tell you what you can do to help. Not to mention feeling guilty, fearful, resentful (of the illness), and a whole host of other emotions.

If you are a carer and can relate to this, please understand. You are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people with mental illness, and each of them very likely has a group of family and friends around them, feeling exactly the same way you do. That is a lot of people feeling like you.

Exhausted. Stressed. Alone. Afraid. Confused. Helpless. Guilty. Isolated.

That is a lot of stress to deal with. And when you feel it for long periods of time, it is really important that you take care of yourself. Some very simple strategies can make a big difference in how you well you bounce back from the stresses and ultimately in the quality of your life.

When you’re looking at specific strategies there is one thing to keep in mind. Given the amount of stress most carers experience, sometimes thinking about doing extra can be overwhelming. So keep things really simple and you’ll be able to incorporate some of them into your normal routine. Try these:thought training

  • Take 3-5 long, slow deep breaths. Try to focus on slowing your breaths down and smoothing them out. This will get some oxygen into your brain and help you think more clearly.
  • Pamper yourself. Take a bath, paint your nails, get a massage. This helps you relax your muscles and allows those stress hormones to dissipate.
  • Surround yourself with nature. Visit a garden, sit under a tree, get your hands dirty with soil. This will help ground you and release the stress.
  • Slow your brain down. Meditate, do yoga, or simply sit on your own for a while and breathe.
  • Do something you absolutely love.
  • Laugh.
  • Connect with other people. Often speaking with other carers can help you realise you aren’t in this on your own and give you a chance to pick some brains about strategies that others have used successfully.
  • Talk to someone. Sometimes seeing a professional can help you sort out the jumble in your head and give you some direction.

carer serenity scene

Australia has a network of carers organisations in each state that provide support for carers. They offer a variety of services, including access to support groups, workshops and counselling. They can also link you in with other services you may need. You can find details on each state’s organisation here, or call 1800 242 636 from anywhere in Australia. Some other countries also have carers organisations, including the UK and USA. Other support organisations in Australia include ARAFMI and COPMI (for the kids).

 

Leonie’s journey with Bipolar

It’s been several days since the last post was published on Kate’s life with Bipolar Disorder. Leonie has the same diagnosis and the other day she spent some time telling me of her experiences. Leonie’s story is one of suffering and sadness. And it is also one of strength, perseverance and triumph. She has taken her illness and the darkness it produced, and has found a way to use a variety of strategies and to create the light of her life. As always, if reading Leonie’s story triggers your own illness, please speak with your mental health professional or call Lifeline on 13 1114.

Leonie was first diagnosed with depression in 2003 and was prescribed an antidepressant. This led to a psychotic manic episode, which was followed by a period in hospital a month or two later. Even though she was heavily sedated and experiencing delusions, she clearly remembers the moment she left the doctor’s office after hearing him say the phrase “it seems likely you have bipolar”.

When she shared the diagnosis with a close friend from her early university daLeonie bipolar think in my headys, she was told, “hindsight is 20/20”. Other friends and family agreed. Leonie had been living with bipolar since she was a teenager. Fast forward to 2003 and much of her life had masked the illness.

Leonie gave birth to a son in 1998 and a daughter in 2001. In September 2001, when planes hit the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11, her daughter was two months old. Leonie remembers her prevailing and repetitive thought was, “how could I have brought my baby into such a brutal world?” Her general practitioner realises now that she was living with post natal depression at the time. In fact, she lived with it following the birth of both children.

With friends living in the state next to the World Trade Centre, and a 2 month old baby, 9/11 hit Leonie hard. Her existing depression led to her spiraling further into the illness.

Leonie bipolar saying

Not quite that simple, Leonie’s transformation has taken many years

She returned to work part-time at the beginning of 2002 and found it very stressful. She ended up on indefinite long service leave. She felt unsupported, confused and lost.

Then, in January 2003, when her daughter was 18 months old, she looked up to the air conditioning duct in her house to see flames. She got herself and the children out and by the time the fire brigade arrived smoke was billowing from every orifice of the house. While most of the damage was confined to the roof cavity, the rug where the children were sitting when the flames were first seen was burnt by a molten air conditioning vent that had fallen. Leonie became fearful of staying in the house, and also fearful of leaving it at the same time. How much turmoil and confusion she must have been feeling at that time!

While Leonie was taking a shower one day in June 2003 she distinctly remembers not being able to work out why she was in there or knowing what to do next. She couldn’t work out how to turn off the water or grab a towel. She managed to call a friend, who gave her instructions to “hang up, don’t move and pick up the phone when it rings”, after promising to help. Together they dressed and breakfasted the children and took them to day care. They made a doctor’s appointment to see her General Practitioner and went with her friend’s support a couple of days later. Leonie was diagnosed with depression and prescribed Zoloft, an antidepressant. Within a month Leonie experienced psychosis, which is apparently a common result when that type of antidepressant is prescribed to someone with bipolar.

The 5 years between 2003 and 2008 were very bleak for Leonie. She spent most of the time severely depressed, with a few severe manic episodes. Christmas 2008 was very bleak. A few months earlier Leonie experienced a manic episode involving some friends, which affected their friendship in a negative way. Whilst attending the Christmas assembly at her children’s school she experienced a full-blown panic attack. She felt like the worst mother in the world and completely demoralised.

Leonie began thinking about suicide as an option so her family would no longer have to feel the shame she felt she brought on them. She felt they would be better off without her. Even though her husband and mother knew she was low, she hid the extent of it from them.

By this time her file at her mental health centre was an inch thick. Between 2003 and January 2009 she felt like the mental health professionals came through a revolving door.

Leonie bipolar difference 08 v 13

Bottom: 2008, Top: 2013

The day that produced the turning point came when she saw one specific psychiatrist in that very long line of professionals. She walked in the door at her lowest ever point and was asked to tell her story yet again. The thought of rehashing all the pain and suffering was unbearable. Two minutes in, the psych was on the phone asking for a bed in the closest inpatient unit.

Leonie was in hospital for a month so that her new doctor could observe her closely as he fine tuned her medication. She felt lucky that she had finally found the right fit with a mental health professional. He was intuitive and understood her well.

Leonie bipolar stand up 8

She was out of hospital another month before another manic episode hit as a result of coming out of such a low. Bordering on psychotic again, she ended up in the emergency room with police hovering for most of the day while waiting on a bed in the inpatient unit. For another month, her doctor once again monitored her closely as he readjusted her medications. Leonie remains on these same medications to this day.

Career wise, traveling back in time briefly, in about 2005/6, Leonie was working 2 days a week as a teacher. She struggled because she was so depressed. Despite her then psychologist strongly suggesting that she submit a medical retirement, she resisted. The thought broke her heart. In a job that she had previously loved, she felt that she was unfit to do that work forever. But she couldn’t bring herself to submit the paperwork.

Leonie bipolar plans

Leonie’s doctor discharged her from hospital at the end of May 2008. She experienced one minor depressive episode which lasted approximately a week. At that point she participated in her second, 10-week mindfulness course. By October of that same year she was once again doing 2-3 days of casual teaching each week. She chose her schools carefully as she made these tentative steps, but felt like she had her life back.

The entire year of 2009 saw her regularly working 3-5 days per week (at various schools). In the final term one school invited her to work 3 days a week for the rest of the year. In consultation with her team of professionals and close family, by October she decided to go back to full-time work.

At the beginning of 2010 she began her new job, a position she retains today. At first she didn’t tell anyone at her work about her illness due to feelings of shame and fear of judgement. But after she felt she had proven her wellness, she received incredible support from her boss.

Other than one minor and short-live depressive episode in 2012, which included anxiety attacks, she has been free of mood swings. While she doesn’t consider herself “cured”, and she will be on medications for the rest of her life, her condition is now successfully being managed. She utilises a team of professionals.

Leonie Bipolar

The joy after conquering a long-held fear of going down a huge water slide

Psychiatrist, Psychologist, General Practitioner. She combines medications with regular mindfulness training and sessions with her psychologist. She has made significant changes to her lifestyle by exercising and eating healthily. She now gets adequate sleep after discovering that the lack of it contributed to her manic episodes.

Leonie also calls on the support of close family, colleagues and friends. She feels blessed to be a part of a wonderful circle of social support. She now knows, thanks to this amazing support, that she no longer needs to keep the secret and shame.

Leonie feels that the key to beginning her path to wellness was to find that one professional that she could really connect with.

Leonie bipolar xmas 2013

Christmas 2013 and Leonie’s new way of being

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