Bipolar In The Family

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Day 18 of my 40 Day Blog Challenge. Yesterday, we heard a courageous story of what it was like to grow up in a household with someone battling alcoholism. Today, Penny has shared her story of growing up in a household with a parent suffering from Bipolar. It’s a frank and highly personal story which truly highlights the impact of living with mental health, and the dire need for the right kind of support.  Continue reading

Cream Crackered

Day 7 of my 40 day challenge.

January 2016 I posted by best ever time cycling up Ditchling Beacon, over a minute faster than my previous attempt! It was no Bradley Wiggins, not even on par with my peers, but it was my personal best.

A couple of weeks later it was a different story. It was like I had nothing to give, like I was struggling in a strong wind on a still day. Then the flu 😷. So that makes sense. Feeling much better by March but still hacking up some nastiness, I attempt a cycling event with my friends. And that’s when it all started. Continue reading

6th March

Day 6 of my 40 Day challenge!

I’m really excited to be able to share a number of people’s stories in the coming days and weeks, thank you to all those who have already agreed. There’s still plenty of room for more contribution, so I’d love to hear your story…

Today my amazing wife Hannah has written about her experience of living through grief. Thank you so much for sharing this Hannah, you truly are an inspiration to me in so many ways…

6th March

As I drove up the M23 this morning on my way to work, I caught flashing lights in my rear view.  I rather suspect many commuters immediately think of the inconvenience of traffic delays and lateness to work.  My thoughts race like this: has there been a crash?  Is someone/ people injured?  Are their next of kin about to be contacted?  Thank goodness it’s not me and it’s not my family who get the worst news.  Continue reading

Life Changes to Make on Your Path to Recovery Beyond Just ‘Quitting’

Day 4 of the 40 day challenge. The household is down with a sicknes bug 😷 and nothing much productive happening today! Thankfully I came across a really interesting blog by Victoria B and she had really kindly said I can re-blog as part of my 40 day challenge.

It’s all about how to stay healthy in recovery from addiction, but there’s real value in this for anyone looking to better their general sense of mental wellbeing.

Thanks Victoria x

800 Recovery Hub Blog

Quitting drugs and alcohol is a good start

The path to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction isn’t just about ‘quitting’. Most recovery experts will tell you that making huge life changes while trying to manage substance abuse can be detrimental to recovery. Huge changes like major purchases, moving, and altering the trajectory of romantic relationships should probably wait until you’ve been sober for some time. It’s important to start small and work your way up to bigger changes, but the good news is there are smaller, more manageable life changes that can aid your road to recovery.

Eat better and get some more exercise

Adopting a healthier diet not only helps you replace bad habits with good ones, but it teaches discipline and promotes better mental health as well. A strong body means and strong mind, and a strong mind is needed to help battle addiction. Exercise is great…

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Inside Out…

Day 3 of 40 Day Challenge. I’m blogging about issues around mental wellbeing through lent and would love you to join in with inspiring stories, topics/suggestions for topics etc. Please feel free to follow this blog, comment share etc so we can encourage each other in this area over the coming weeks. You can also contact me privately via the Home page on this Blog site.

The first film I took my daughter to see at the cinema was Inside Out. It’s a lovely film about a young girl’s battle with her emotions as she comes to terms with big life changes. I’m sure most of it went over my daughter’s head, but I have to admit to shedding a tear at the end 😥.  Continue reading

Instrumental by James Rhodes

I finished reading a book yesterday. Big deal. Well it is for me. For some reason I have always struggled to read, it makes me tired and often restless. But a friend gave me this book and recommend I read it, so I did.

Instrumental is an autobiography by James Rhodes. It is awesome. It is awful. It is shocking. It is kind. It is full of pain. It is full of hope. Somehow, despite the most difficult of subject matter(s), it is beautiful. Read it.

It is a very honest and personal story of horrendous abuse as a child and the life long affects this has on every aspect of life. It is about how his love for classical music eventually begins the healing process, lifting him out of despair and periods of crippling mental ill health.

I feel not to say too much about the book, as it’s not my story, but urge you to read it.

As a counsellor I am most grateful for the book. Every day I sit with clients who have suffered the worst of abuse. I have not read any text book which comes close to the insights that James gives in Instrumental. It is easy to become accustomed and even desensitised to hearing difficult experiences, and sadly to miss the impact it has on an individual. We want to understand, but we often fall woefully short.

Instrumental leaves no room for misunderstanding of the grave impact that childhood abuse has on a person.

It does however leave the reader with a huge sense of hope, and it does this in such an impassioned way, that despite being a difficult read, it is also impossible to put down.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Instrumental-James-Rhodes/dp/1782113371/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1434105526&sr=8-1

Addiction

It takes no prisoners. The death of Charles Kennedy last week reminds us of that. It isn’t picky or selective, it doesn’t discriminate. Give it an inch and it will take a trip round the planet and then some.  Mr Kennedy has been remembered for his achievements in politics, for his amiable style and humanity in an hostile playing field. And so he should be. Any death through addiction is a tragedy.

It is so misunderstood. So easy to judge. As if the homeless alcoholic on the park bench somehow thought that alcohol would be a good career choice. Or the heroin addict gouging out in a derelict tower block surrounded by dirty needles and other peoples urine, somehow saw it in a film aged 7 and aspired to be just like that when he grew up.

No. It is not a lifestyle choice. It happens to some and not to others. Like diabetes or cancer, some suffer addiction. Sadly it is a disease with impossible demands. The insatiable need for more, and more. There are a few who can afford the financial demands, there are none who can afford the eventual consequences.

For those who can’t afford the financial demands, options are bleak and the resulting behaviour is often difficult for others to stomach. So we judge.

I don’t for a minute condone certain behaviours. Some have suffered horrendously at the hands of others who are in addiction. It’s truly tragic.

It’s all tragic. But there is no choice. Affordable or not, wise or foolish, the need for the next drink, smoke, score always wins out. Some will be remembered well. But for those who had to resort to stealing, manipulation, prostitution, to sustain a behaviour they hated themselves for; they most likely will be remembered for those things. Again, tragic.

It is easy to see behaviour we don’t like or understand and cast our judgement. Addiction is perhaps so misunderstood because of the behaviours it often leads to.  But most of us try a drink at some point. So understand this; if you don’t suffer the horror of addiction, then it is merely that when you took your first drink, you played Russian roulette and won.

Addiction is not about poor will power or having an immoral bent. For about 10% of the population, substances in the body have far more dire consequences than for the rest. It is nobody’s fault.

This blog feels perhaps that it may be asking a lot in terms of challenging our attitudes around those who suffer with addiction, especially if you have been the victim of addiction driven behaviour. But mostly I urge compassion. Charles Kennedy is warmly remembered. He could afford his drink but paid with his life.

Perhaps with compassion will come patience, and with that a little understanding.

The thing about labels…

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Labels are great and we’d be pretty stuck without them. Years ago I went on a camping holiday and shared a caravan with a few other guys. In his incredible wisdom and bid to be hilarious, one of the party decided to remove all the labels from the tinned food. Needless to say that dinners for the week were truly potluck, and pretty awful. The thing with a tin of baked beans is that you know what you are getting; a cheap, tasty, quick solution which later results in flatulence!

So generally, labels help us to identify things which makes life just a little easier to navigate. The problem is that when it comes to people, and in particular, descriptions around our mental health, things get a whole lot more complicated.

If I say the word “schizophrenia” for example, this may well bring up a massive variety of emotional responses depending on the reader. Unlike the tin of beans which is almost entirely possible to predict, such diagnoses and experiences of them will vary massively. When we hear the term “schizophrenia” many of us will jump to the latest news headline involving someone who suffers with the condition. Others will automatically think about psychotic conditions such as hallucinations, hearing voices, delusions or paranoia. And all of the above are just a fraction of the many ways of experiencing the world which may lead to such a diagnosis. Once someone is given a label, then it is often the case that their entire persona can be open to interpretation, based squarely on an individual’s own preconceptions and attitudes around the label.

I’d like to clarify at this point that I am not anti-labels or diagnoses. They can really help us in terms of beginning to understand the kinds of ways in which people may suffer. The problem is that I can easily be led to view people in the way I view baked beans. I think I know what I’m getting, I make assumptions and foster beliefs based upon very limited information. Most of us would hate to think that we do this, but it’s actually pretty normal to do. There is a great song in the puppet musical Avenue Q called “We’re all a little bit racist,” which highlights how we all make assumptions about people based on limited information. Give it a quick Google, it’s well worth a look and is very funny.

A mental health diagnosis can only ever be a clue about some of the ways in which a person may experience life at times. It’s not a description of the person. I often wonder how it is that when talking about mental health, we often embody the diagnosis in a way we don’t do for “physical” conditions. For example, I’d say something like, “I have the flu”, I wouldn’t say “I am the flu”. But for some reason it is common to hear phrases such as “He’s bi-polar” or “She’s depressed” or “They’re a schizophrenic”. It’s less common to hear a phrase like “He suffers from depression”.

Suddenly the label becomes an identity which we can place upon others and which is all too easy to place upon ourselves with incredibly limiting consequences. That’s not what a label is for. The label is there to understand roughly how a person experiences things, and helps us to begin to find ways of improving that experience.

It’s an old cliche that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s really helpful in this case. Sure, with the beans we know exactly what we’re getting. With a book, the cover only gives us a tiny clue as to the story that lies within. The cover can never express the richness, the variety and the mystery of the story.

Let’s do more reading.