journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Update: 3 Months Without Meds

As most of you know, in January I made the difficult decision to stop ALL mental health medication. This means no medication, whatsoever. No mental health medication. No anti depressives, no anti psychotics, no sedatives, no mood stabilisers, no sleeping pills, etc. None. These types of psychiatric drugs should be withdrawn slowly to prevent regression, relapse and withdrawal symptoms. My decision to come off them was swift and within 2 days I went from being on medication to absolutely nothing (I don’t recommend this, not the best idea if I say so myself).

Now, there is a lot of speculation on whether psychiatric drugs are effective, safe and addictive. Sure, all psychiatric medication could cause withdrawal reactions. Psychiatric drugs can cause a wide range of symptoms when taking the drug. When first being taken off this medication, the person can feel markedly worse. This is due to a withdrawal reaction. I personally think that all medication works differently for everybody. Some people may get withdrawal symptoms, some may not. One drug may work for someone else but not for me or vice versa.

It’s been a struggle. A roller-coaster, even. Month 1, as I stated before, was horrendous. It was a month of adjustment, a month of no longer setting alarms to take meds, a month of feeling absolutely horrendous. Within days of being off medication my mood became vulnerable. Suicidal thoughts and behaviours increased, I was irritable, constantly crying and my anxiety always sat in my stomach. However, coming off the medication gave me more energy. Psychiatric drugs have been noted to cause drowsiness and increased fatigue and when I came off medication I felt so much more energised. I was actually able to sit on the sofa without falling asleep. I was able to leave the house without being overwhelmingly filled with tiredness.

Month 2 and 3 have been a blur. My memory, on the best of days, is awful, so trying to remember the adjustment of each month is beyond my comprehension. It hasn’t been easy, that much I can assure. Why would it be easy? Coming off medication does not mean that your illnesses are gone, it means that you are no longer controlling them by medication. When I was on medication, I was so set in believing that it wasn’t working. I was still feeling suicidal and down on medication but it wasn’t until I came off it that I noticed how much it actually worked. Medication doesn’t take your mental illnesses away. How awesome would medication be if it did that. If medication took your mental illnesses away, I’ve realised, it would also take your personality, your ability to wake up and breathe everyday. It would take you. Medication numbs your mental illnesses to the point where you can function. That’s how I explain it.

It’s been 3 months of balancing my mood, my anxieties and my pain all whilst trying to live and succeed at university. After month 3, I can honestly say that being off medication will not likely be a permanent thing and someday in the near future it will introduce itself to me again. What I can also say is that medication is not the answer to everything and even if I feel like I can no longer go on, God blesses me with a new day every time I open my eyes, and for that I’m always thankful.

 Please do your research before stopping any psychiatric medications. If you feel ready, organise an appointment or two to thoroughly discuss your options with your doctor. If you feel like you need medication for your mental health disorders, please do not be afraid to discuss this with your doctor  also- they will listen to your views and come up with a plan. Medication is not for everyone but some people need it to function, and that’s perfectly fine.

Be safe, I love you.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Eating Disorders Amongst the Dancer Community

More than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, 11% of these being male. The main eating disorders are Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder (BED), eliminating EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).Before the latest change in diagnostic criteria, it was estimated that of those with eating disorders, 10% were anorexic, 40% were bulimic and the rest fall into the EDNOS category which included BED.

In the dance world, these statistics are even higher. Society puts pressure on people to look a certain way in order to be accepted. In dance, the pressure to be thin is not only due to appearance but also due to performance. Dancers, especially those who take ballet, are often expected to be very thin. Young dancers look to dancers much older who have thin bodies. Dance places a large emphasis on physical appearance. Dance requires you to wear skin-tight clothes whilst dancing in front of a million mirrors for hours at a time. This environment can impact dancers views on their self and possibly lower their self esteem. Dancers constantly look at themselves and their bodies and compare themselves to others.

Many dancers also believe that achieving a lower weight will improve their dancing as well. Female dancers must be held in the air by their male counterparts in a series of long and strenuous lifts. Being lighter and easier to hold is desirable. Because extra weight changes the balance of the body, ballet dancers are careful to maintain a lower weight, thus allowing them to move easier and land softer.

Many people who suffer from eating disorders feel that the disorder gives them a sense of control. This act of self-discipline and structure is inherent in the nature of dance as well. Mastering a skill or achieving a low weight is a tangible goal for dancers. Some dancers have reported that being thinner than the other girls can give them an edge when it comes to getting a role in a dance. Having a sense of control over your body and your competition is powerful for dancers. These pressures are extremely relevant in the world of classical ballet, but that is not to say that developing an eating disorder is the right way to find success as a ballerina. In fact, it is just the opposite. Eating disorders destroy your body, leaving you malnourished and lacking in muscle tone and bone strength. Dance is a rigorous sport that requires an enormous amount of strength. A body plagued by a serious eating disorder is weak and not able to execute difficult leaps and skilful manoeuvres.

Studies have shown that girls begin to express concerns about their own weight or about becoming too fat as early as the age of six. Most dancers begin their high level training around age seven. These girls are dreaming of becoming professional dancers, and are doing so at an impressionable age. Feeling the need to be lean like their idols can significantly damage them both mentally and physically.

The dance world is tough and it can be easy to follow the rules of society.

It can be difficult to spot the onset or re-occurrence of an eating disorder when a person is of a normal weight. Warning signs include:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting such as always counting calories, skipping meals, avoiding foods, replacing meals with fluids.
  • Extreme exercise regimes and abnormal amounts of time spent at a gym to ‘burn calories’. Exercising when injured, in bad weather, exhibiting distress if not able to exercise, refusal to stop exercise for any reason.
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative abuse – frequent trips to the bathroom during or after meals.
  • Changes in food preferences – suddenly refusing to eat certain foods, changing to vegetarian or vegan to avoid foods, claiming to dislike foods once enjoyed, interested in healthy eating.
  • Avoidance of eating food or social events that involve food.
  • Strong focus on body and body weight – interest in weight-loss websites and pro-ana sites, dieting books and pictures of ‘thin’ people.
  • Development of repetitive behaviours – pinching waist or wrists, constantly weighing, excessive time looking at the mirror.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation, avoidance of once enjoyed activities.
  • Eating very slowly and denying hunger  – even when the belly rumbles.
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss or frequent changes in weight
  • Complaining about being cold even in warm environments
  • Signs of vomiting – swollen cheeks, calluses on the knuckles or damaged teeth.
  • Fainting spells, panic attacks and dizziness
  • Always feeling tired and unable to perform many activities
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Negative self-esteem and body image as well as a distorted body image
  • Sensitive to comments or criticism about the body, weight or exercise and eating habits
  • Heightened anxiety, especially around food
  • Depression and other psychological disorders
  • Black and white thinking – everything is either good or bad, no in between.
  • Feeling out of control or hopeless
  • Moody or irritable

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Eating Disorder symptoms are as follows:

There are physical and psychological indicators of eating disorders. Depending on the disorder, some include: • Preoccupation with food, weight, and body • Unrelenting fear of gaining weight • Refusal to eat except for tiny portions • Dehydration • Compulsive exercise and inappropriate time spent at the gym • difficulty concentrating and focusing  • Distorted body image • Abnormal weight loss • Sensitivity to cold • Absent menstruation • Rapid consumption of a large amount of food • Eating alone or in secret • Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, or emetics • Depression • Shame and guilt • Withdrawal • difficulty regulating mood (sad then happy) • associated mental disorders: depression, anxiety, OCD and substance abuse • slow pulse and blood pressure • dizzy spells and shortness of breath • chest pain • electrolyte imbalances • stress fractures, broken bones or injuries • low body temperature • low energy or extreme fatigue • constipation and stomach problems • laxative dependence

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

The Devastating Truth: Depression

Depression is often viewed as an emotion or feeling that isn’t really that serious. The true reality of Depression though is that it is a slow-moving killer that makes your original, happy personality turn silent and isolating. A lot of people who suffer from depression go on to commit suicide. Around 90% of people who have killed themselves have had Depression or another co-siding mental health problem. Even if people do not take their life if they have depression, the illness still makes them exist and not live. Life will become meaningless, exhausting and not very enjoyable.

Depression leaves you to reflect on your life as well as trying to reconstruct happiness, all whilst balancing feeling utterly alone. Depression brings along an entire stream of confusion, unhappiness, rage, grief, loneliness, exhaustion and physical illness.

The reason so many people do not talk about the raw truth of Depression is because Depression isn’t really talked about out loud. The raw truth is that it makes people uncomfortable. People who haven’t experienced Depression or any other forms of mental illness will question why a depressed person is sad in the first place or encourage you to simply ‘be happy and think positive’. The reality is that there isn’t always a reason why a depressed person is sad. Sometimes it just gets too much. No one has any reason to judge another person whose struggling, and for the person who is depressed, life is absolutely unbearable to cope with most of the time. No matter how much that depressed person is loved, they can still feel absolutely worthless.

When you have Depression, everyone else around you seems happy. They seem to have it all together and cope amazingly with everyday situations. If you’re suffering, you don’t want to take their happiness away by involving them in your problems. You isolate so that others around you can feel the happiest they can be without putting any of your problems on them.

Depression makes you unworthy of people, help and love. However, when you take a step back and view yourself at a different perspective, are you really a burden to others? All the things we can’t do in Depression set us free. Depression is a gut wrenching and isolating disease but people truly help. Having people around not only provides comforts but also support in the darkness.

No one suffering from Depression is alone.

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If You Know Someone Suffering From Depression

What you say to someone who suffers is important. Remember not to take it personally if they can’t or won’t open up to you. Compassionately reach out.

When they do open up, do not brush it off or ignore them. There is nothing for you to fix. Just listen. Sometimes, just knowing they are not alone will help them move out of the pain.

The goal of helping is giving people who suffer from depression a voice and allowing them to be heard. This pulls them out of isolation and helps them feel loved.

Reach out to them, be with them, listen to them.

This will and can save a life.

Depression is a disease of the heart, one that equals sadness.

Suicide is not reversible, but sadness, if it is caught early enough is.

With compassion, empathy and kindness to one another, we can reverse the disease. We can save each other with sympathy, honesty and love.

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Weight Loss, Positivity and Self-Discovery

Positivity is hard in a world full of negativity, deception and destruction. Some people are just naturally positive people who see the positive in everything, take everyday with happiness and plough through every opportunity life throws at you. I think I was that type of person when I was a small child, maybe around the age of 3-5. Life was an adventure, exploring trees and taking the guinea pigs for walks in the grass. Life was flying over rivers on a lose rope, and then turning up at the house covered in water and mud. When I was 8 years old, anxiety introduced itself to me and from there the positivity seemed to drain away. With anxiety comes a type of paranoia – assuming people think negative of you, or that laugh across the lunch room between those 3 girls was because of you, etc. When your a child, the world to you is perfect and safe so at 8 years old to have mental illness thrown at you is such a trying thing. It makes you second think your opinion on the world and the people in it. Not only that, at 8 years old I never even knew mental illness existed so there was no explanation for the way I thought about the world or why I was so anxious 24/7.

Anyway, the point is, as you grow you tend to lose that spark that life gives you. Life sometimes stops becoming an adventure and in regards to mental illness life is just about waking up tomorrow. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to realise things about myself and continue everyday with self-discovery. When you gain information about something, even in regards to yourself, you need to start to piece the jigsaw together so that you can find all the things that help you and work for you and what make you happy. My jigsaw isn’t complete but one day it will be, I’m sure.

On another note, I’m starting the day with a rare bit of positivity – after watching the snow and a 7lb weight loss, I feel a little more encouraged to move, move, move today and I’m going to take a mindful walk.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

What is Stimming behaviour?

Self-stimulatory behaviour, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders. Stimming behaviours have also been noticed in those with mental health problems or those who have been through some type of trauma.

Stimming is considered a behaviour that provides calmness and stimulation. It is also noted to be self-soothing during anxieties, psychosis, unsettled environments and trauma.

Common stimming behaviours, called stims, include:

  • hand flapping
  • rocking
  • head banging
  • repeating noises or words
  • snapping or tapping fingers
  • clapping of the hands
  • spinning objects

Stimming is usually related to the senses.

  • Visual: Staring at lights or ceiling fans; repetitive blinking; moving fingers in front of the eyes; hand-flapping, gazing at nothing in particular; tracking eyes; peering out of the corners of eyes; lining up objects; turning on and off light switches.
  • Auditory: Vocalizing in the form of humming, grunting, or high-pitched shrieking; tapping ears or objects; covering and uncovering ears; snapping fingers; making vocal sounds; repeating vocal sequences; repeating portions of videos, books or songs at inappropriate times.
  • Tactile: Scratching or rubbing the skin with one’s hands or with another object; opening and closing fists; tapping surfaces with fingers and the hand.
  • Vestibular: Rocking front to back; rocking side-to-side; spinning; jumping; pacing.
  • Taste: Placing body parts or objects in one’s mouth; licking objects.
  • Smell: Sniffing or smelling people or objects.

While the underlying cause for stimming is not clear, repetitive movements are associated with a number of medical and/or psychiatric conditions:

  • Sensory deprivation (blindness or deafness)
  • Seizures or brain infection
  • Intellectual disability
  • Drug use
  • Psychiatric disorders like autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis and anxiety
  • Undiagnosed pain
  • Trauma
  • Pervasive developmental disorders (PDD)

For more information on stimming, visit autism.wikia or speak to a professional. If you would like to talk please email:

savannahaliciax@gmail.com

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Why do we relapse?

From what I’ve learned, Eating Disorder recovery seems to be life-long. Eating Disorders never truly go away and recovery never happens only once. The word relapse is a word many people have probably come across. In regards to eating disorder recovery, relapse can be common. Relapse is when a person who is in recovery from an eating disorder goes back to their disordered eating behaviours or negative thoughts about food, weight and body size.

Why do we relapse? There are a range of risk factors that influence a person with an eating disorder to relapse. For example, eating disorder patients who are still concerned about their body shape and weight, or who exercise at high levels after completing treatment, are more likely to relapse. People who have not been successful in recovery in the past are also more likely to relapse. This is because they might not believe that they can keep up the positive changes they have made during treatment. Other risk factors for relapse include past suicide attempts, a dysfunctional or negative family environment, and trouble hanging out with or meeting people.

Depending on the person’s point in recovery, relapse can trigger a range of emotions. Some will feel guilty, ashamed, frustrated and weak that they have relapsed with an eating disorder where as others, who are still in a disordered mindset will believe to feel in control, strong and happy.

Signs of an eating disorder relapse include:

  • Thoughts continue to turn back to weight and food
  • Increasing need to be in control over many things
  • Perfectionistic thinking returns or becomes stronger
  • Feelings of needing to escape from stress and problems
  • Feeling hopelessness and/or increasing sadness
  • Increasing belief that you can only be happy if you are thin
  • Increasing belief that you are out of control if you are not on a “diet”
  • Dishonesty with treatment coordinators and/or friends and family
  • Looking in mirrors often
  • Weighing yourself more and determining whether today will be good or bad depending on what shows up on the scale
  • Skipping meals, or purging them
  • Avoiding food and/or get-togethers that involve food
  • Increasing need to exercise continually
  • Watching what food you put into your body and writing it all down
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Feeling guilt after eating
  • Feeling the need to isolate yourself from those around you
  • Feeling “fat” even though people say otherwise

Relapses are a very normal part of re­cov­ery and they are to be ex­pec­ted. For some peo­ple they last for a day, for some a week, a month or longer, but a re­lapse does not mean that you have failed.

Every day has a brand new beginning ❤

journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Mental Health Statistics (young people)

1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class.

Between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm .

There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.

More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time.

Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.

Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression.

72% of children in care have behavioural or emotional problems – these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

95% of imprisoned young offenders have a mental health disorder. Many of them are struggling with more than one disorder.

The number of young people aged 15-16 with depression nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s.

The proportion of young people aged 15-16 with a conduct disorder more than doubled between 1974 and 1999.

MORE DETAILED STATISTICS

A more detailed analysis of the figures on depression, conduct disorders and anxiety in children are listed below.

MENTAL DISORDERS

  • 9.6% or nearly 850,000 children and young people aged between 5-16 years have a mental disorder
  • 7.7% or nearly 340,000 children aged 5-10 years have a mental disorder
  • 11.5% or about 510,000 young people aged between 11-16 years have a mental disorder

ANXIETY

  • 3.3% or about 290,000 children and young people have an anxiety disorder
  • 2.2% or about 96,000 children have an anxiety disorder
  • 4.4% or about 195,000 young people have an anxiety disorder

DEPRESSION

  • 0.9% or nearly 80,000 children and young people are seriously depressed
  • 0.2% or about 8,700 aged 5-10 year-olds are seriously depressed.
  • 1.4% or about 62,000 aged 11-16 year-olds are seriously depressed.

CONDUCT DISORDERS

  • 5.8% or just over 510,000 children and young people have a conduct disorder
  • 4.9% or nearly 215,000 children have a conduct disorder
  • 6.6% or just over 290,000 young people have a conduct disorder

HYPERKINETIC DISORDER (SEVERE ADHD)

  • 1.5% or just over 132,000 children and young people have severe ADHD
  • 1.6% or about 70,000 children have severe ADHD
  • 1.4% or  about 62,000 young people have severe ADHD

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