Friday, 27 April 2012

Depression Awareness Week #4

I hate overhearing people misusing the word 'depression'.

Like Jo said, depression is a serious illness. It is real, it is scary, it is beatable.
And it comes in different degrees.  When switching medication for OCD, I sunk down to a low of emptyness. My meds happen to also be used as antidepressants. So I guess I've been there too, to an extent.

But it isn't annoyance. It isn't PMT. It isn't having an argument with a friend or relative.
It isn't even bereavement or grief.
It is an all-encompassing state of being. Or rather, not-being.

My first tangible encounter with the 'black dog' was through my oldest friend. At a sleepover, she blurted out that she had been diagnosed with clinical depression. I thought we were just growing up. Teenagers have moodswings, friendships change, perople sometimes distance themselves from each other. But they always come back, right? It scared me a lot.

Trying to support and reach her through the bubble of isolation depression created around my friend was one of the hardest and most exhausting things I have ever tried to do. And I've done Duke of Edinburgh and Advanced Higher Maths, so that's saying something.

Since then, I have met and grown close to others affected by depression. Some of my closest friends have black dogs of their own. And I have learnt that all I can do for my loved ones is be there for them. Be their friend. Be their sister. Answer their calls. Chum them to their doctor's appointment. Be there when they need someone to talk to, and still be there when they don't.

This post has no fluent line of argument, it's just bits and pieces all jumbled up. But that's the way it is inside my head. Mental illness doesn't make sense. It's just there. And it doesn't make the people we know and love any more or any less valuable.

Libby x

Depression awareness week #3

“We think you have depression, what do you think about that?”

Upon hearing that statement, my head started racing with thoughts.

I am just weak. I shouldn’t be depressed, I have a fortunate life. I can’t letanyone know. I am a freak. Great, I’m mental. I know they are right. Does thismean they can help me? I have to pretend I am okay. I am pathetic. It’s just anexcuse for being weak.

I was ashamed, I did not want anyone to know and I didn’t think I deserved any help. I rejected all offers of help from professionals and kept all of the thoughts to myself. They just escalated. This escalation continued until finally, I accepted the help.

Depression is an illness that will affect 1 in 5 people so, why did I, and many other people, feel it was something that needed to be hidden? Something that shouldn't be spoken about?

What I want to say is, if you think you may have depression or if you do, don’t be ashamed. It is an illness, an illness that deserves treatment. No one deserves to suffer alone.

When I was struggling, and wouldn’t access any help a friend sat me down. She was honest with me and, despite my objection; she took me to speak to the school nurse. At the time it was safe to say that I was less than pleased but, looking back now I see how vital that event was. If she had not taken the time to talk to me, the time to care, then I don’t know if I would be the person I am today. If she had not had the courage to be open about her own issues I wouldn't have been able to be myself. I will be forever grateful to that person and I now I want to be able to be that person to others. To show others that they are not alone and to encourage them to seek help.

If you are struggling, don’t suffer alone. Talk to someone, you deserve the help.

And, if you know someone who is suffering from depression, the greatest thing you can do, in my opinion, is just to be there for them as you've always been. Don't be judgmental. Depression is just am illness and underneath it they are still the person the always have been.

All the best,
M xx

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Depression awareness week #2

So I decided that with it being Depression Awareness Week, for the first time I'd share one of my poems which I wrote whilst I was in the grips of depression. At the time I felt as though I was trapped in this web of darkness and pain, I thought I'd never find a way out, that there was nothing left. If you're reading this now and are in the grips of depression, please know that it DOES get better, I've been where you are, desperate, hopeless, lonely, and now I'm finally seeing the light, and you will too - there is hope, there is a light at the end of this long dark tunnel, just keep fighting and it will be worth it.


From the moment I wake up
to the moment I fall asleep,
this darkness surrounds me
fills my heart and engulfs my mind.
 If you close your eyes or stand in a dark room you will see darkness,
but for me it is is a constant darkness.
A lingering darkness that follows me around everywhere I go.
I cant seem to escape this darkness, no matter what I do,
it hovers and surrounds me,
makes me feel so alone,
so afraid and so hopeless,
this darkness called depression,
it wont leave me alone.

And so I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes;
"Sometimes in life we need to hit that all time rock bottom in order to appreciate how good it feels to be right at the top"

Hang on in there, because life is such a beautiful thing.
YOU are wanted & needed in this world, yes YOU.

Rachael xx

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Depression Awareness Week #1

Winston Churchill described his own depression as his, "black dog" making frequent references to it throughout his life. If one of our country's most well known and well respected prime ministers suffered from the taboo of depression, why are we still hiding behind its stigma, refusing to talk about a condition that 1 in 5 of us will suffer with at some point in our lives?

This week, the 22nd - 28th April 2012, is Depression Awareness Week. We're looking to talk about depression; from every angle to every height, we're hoping stories from the depths of this illness to recovery might offer insight and hope.

If you google depression it has two definitions: 1. Severe despondency and dejection, accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy. 2. A condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. These intense, overwhelming feelings affect sufferers in a range of severity - some people will be ill for a short time, gradually gaining strength with support, treatment and often medication. Others will struggle their whole lives, recovery and relapse a part of their daily living. Some will be diagnosed with "manic depression", an illness we now know as bipolar disorder, an illness with incredible highs and lows. And there will be people out there who see no way through their illness, those who attempt to take their own lives and those who tragically succeed.

You see, depression takes many forms. It is not just a phase that affects sullen teenagers or those reaching midlife crisis. It strikes anyone. And yet like most mental illness, as a society we refuse to face it. We refuse to admit that depression will affect not far short of the number of people affected by cancer. Around 15% of those who suffer from clinical depression will die by suicide; in Scotland the number of young men who take their own life has increased by 22% since 1989; and in those aged between 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death.

Shocking? Serious? Preventable? Treatable? Yes.

Depression is serious, the statistics speak for themselves, but help is out there and recovery from depression is possible. There are a number of different treatments out there from CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to counselling to medication to a mixture of all them. And it's not just the health service which is there to help, there are number of leading charities which are set-up to support those with depression. There is always someone there to listen, whether that is the GP, your best friend, a counsellor or someone on the end of a phone service like Samaritans.

And why am I able to tell you that it does get better? Because I've been there.

I had anorexia nervosa, but with my eating disorder came depression. Anorexia caused such isolation, anxiety and obsession that I became lost in my own world; in this dark narrow minded little world of mine, came further thoughts of self-destruction. For me, a tangled mixture of anorexia and depression made me believe that I deserved to be hurt, that I had no right to be alive. I hurt myself and the scars remain. But they are healed now and show that there is strength in all of us to beat even what we feel might be unbeatable.

The rest of this week, I hope you will read our other stories. And the rest of this year and time to come, I hope we will talk about depression as something we face and are able to move on from. Hope is real.

Check out these links for information and support regarding depression and suicide:

Depression Alliance - a charity designed to assist those affected by depression.
In Comes the Black Dog - an art auction in conjuction with Depression Awareness Week.
TWLOHA - an American charity focused on inspiring hope to those affected by depression.

Love, J x

Monday, 9 April 2012

World Autism Day (a bit late...apologies)

When someone says "autism" - the rain man is what spring to most people's minds. But autism is a spectrum disorder and although some sufferers are savants like the rainman, the majority are not and the disorder can range from a complete lack of communication ability to the disorder being only vaguely apparent on the surface.
I have high functioning autism. I am just like everyone else. I just find some things a bit more difficult due to my autism. 
I do not see autism as a disability, I see is merely as an obstacleThe below video is one I made once describing a little about high functioning autism from my perspective and that of many others. 

The symptoms of autism fall into three main categories; difficulty with communication, difficulties with social interaction and difficulties with imagination. This means that social situations can often be overwhelming and cause high levels of distress.

I was very reluctant about my teachers at school being told about my autism. But, when they were told it was explained to them which things I find tricky and why I didn't understand some things. The consequences of this have been purely positive. This just shows that a wider understanding and awareness of autism in our world would be highly beneficial. Not only would it decrease unnecessary  discrimination but, it would make things easier for those with the disorder.

Autism is a spectrum disorder. Do not assume that all people with autism are the same. Give us a chance and get to know us. I promise you that autism is not purely a synonym for strange.

take care

The following link explain the characteristics of autism very well:

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Just a wee update on Minding Me's progress

Our application to become a charity is finally in the post!

8 to 10 to process and then hopefully we will be a fully fledged charity :)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

helping us help ourselves, or just putting the time bomb to one side?

Today I'm sharing a very interesting essay written by a supporter of ours, Sara, about the effect of late hospital admission for anorexia patients. Definately worth a read folks...

Help on death’s dying door

Anorexia Nervosa suffers shouldn’t be left to knock on death’s door until they become hospitalized whether it is voluntary or involuntary. Throughout this essay I will discuss the need for earlier medical intervention for anorexic patients. As it stands, suffers have to be critically ill before they receive intense medical care/treatment. I aim to argue that earlier inpatient admissions would prevent the illness from creating long term physical and mental health complications. Points that will be discussed include the extremely dangerous criteria that suffers’ usually have to meet before becoming an inpatient; the effect that a later admission to hospital has on patients’ recovery and the symptoms of refeeding.  Also, I will explore problems of hospitalization, the lack of education about Anorexia in the medical profession as well as giving a brief definition of anorexia. By the end of this essay I aim to persuade the reader that anorexics should be given more help earlier on in their illness, which would not only reduce their recovery time and suffering but save the NHS multiple resources in the long-term.
Anorexia Nervosa is a much talked about mental illness with many blaming the media as the cause and falsely regarding it as 'teenage girls starving themselves to become like their Runway idols'.  In reality, it is a mental illness that is commonly triggered by traumatic events that have occurred and/or high pressure from surroundings. These experiences can trigger painful thoughts and emotions with the sufferer turning to controlling their food and weight as a coping mechanism.
However there are still problems associated with hospitalization.  Patients can become institutionalized and rely on the care of the hospital staff leaving them unable to function in the community. In some cases they may find that the hospital environment is better than their own home and so this leads them to regress further into their illness. They get discharged but are so used to the hospital environment that they forget how to live in the community, leaving them scared and setting them up for relapse. Also for a one night stay in a specialised eating disorder unit such as the Huntercombe in 2010 was £500. This causes funding to often run out too quickly for the patient to get in a state of full recovery which they can continue on within the community. If they were admitted faster then they wouldn’t have such complex thinking patterns.
The first argument that I shall put forward is to provide suffers with more intense care at an earlier stage of the illness as to delay this often causes long term damage to health. The common criteria for a hospital inpatient admission for Anorexia Nervosa are set at a critical level. The American Psychiatric Association guidelines for an admission to hospital is that a person has to have less than 10 % body fat, less than 75% of their weight to height percentage meaning their BMI will be below 14 which is deadly serious, severe dehydration, a temperature of below 90 F and a systolic pressure of below 90. Although there are exceptions, consultant for the Fife CAMHS team- Dr Jones- stated that ‘We only really consider hospitalization with a BMI of below 14’. That is only some of the physically criteria that people can be admitted on. By the time a patient has met some of these there has already been short term and long term damage done. Being at an extremely low weight can result in amenorrhea (periods stop) and leave a woman permanently infertile. Over exercise and under-eating can cause the development of Osteoporosis that will last a life time and put an immense strain on the heart and all other vital organs. Many of these are already found in patients who are admitted to hospital and this is non reversible damage. Overall it would cost less lives if anorexics were treated before they got to the stage in the illness where this damage is done as they will need treatment throughout their life leaving a permanent reminder of their past. Also it would save money as less treatment would be needed later in life. About 20% of people suffering from Anorexia will die prematurely due to complications from their eating disorder. This needs to change so that long term damage can be prevented, just as would be the case for any other illness.
Furthermore, leaving hospitalization until the patient is incredibly ill decreases their chances of recovery and worseness the mental condition of suffers. A report written by Thereasa Defino from the WebMD Health News stated that ‘good results were reported for 62% of adolescents who were never hospitalized but this dropped to 14% for those who had been hospitalized, two deaths’. Hsu say ‘patients who need inpatient treatment are sicker in the first place’. This demonstrates that patients who don’t require intense treatment have better chances of recovery which logically means that if patients start recovery before they are seriously ill then the recovery rates could be higher. Also, many suffers then feel that to have achieved being a ‘good’ anorexic and have the right to call themselves anorexic they have to have been on death’s door due to the competitiveness of the illness. But anorexia is a mental illness and so shouldn’t it be treated mentally not just physically? If a patient is admitted to hospital to gain weight-which is their biggest fear- but gets no help psychologically then they will not have changed their thinking patterns and will end up worse off than before due to the trauma of weight gain. Wouldn’t it be better to treat them mentally whilst gaining weight so they don’t relapse and need several admissions? This could lead to the patient spending more time in hospital gaining weight than a long single admission with gradual weight gain and psychological therapy that allows the patient to fully recovery.
Moreover, once a person becomes severely malnourished there is the chance of developing a deadly illness called refeeding syndrome. This can occur when the human body is refeeding itself and the body has a reaction to it. From the months, possibly years of not eating properly the body has used all its resources and the sudden delivery of glucose from food causes a huge increase in circulating insulin levels. There are deadly side effects of developing this, in some cases it will result in death but other problems include fluid imbalances, renal failure and cardiac failure, just mentioning a few. This then causes lots of complications at an already extremely difficult time in a person’s life. Wouldn’t it be better to treat patients before they got to this stage so they wouldn’t have to go through any more mental or physical pain? Just as a cancer patient would receive treatment to prevent cancerous cells from spreading, should an Anorexic not get help to prevent their eating disorder from worsening and causing lasting health problems?
Also worthy of discussion is the lack of education in the medical profession about the seriousness of anorexia and other eating disorders. Anorexics can continuously collapse due to their body not being able to cope and be taken to the hospital yet the usual treatment is to receive an IV and get sent home again. This is due to the staff not being fully aware of the damaging effects of this illness and the tendency of anorexics to lie about their condition. Staff should make sure they are in treatment or are going to receive some form of help before sending them home only to see them in a few weeks again for the same problem. GP surgeries have been known to tell suffers to ‘eat a bar of chocolate a day’. What kind of advice is this? Surely even common sense is better than advice like this? If GPs are unable to help suffers what hope do they have? To go home and sit crying in front of a bar of chocolate as their mother tells them they won’t leave the table till it’s finished because that’s what the doctors stay. What kind of treatment is this? It is driving them further into their illness making them feel even more like a failure to the world as they can’t even eat a bar of chocolate, making them angry as people don’t understand a sense of hopelessness as nothing can help. If doctors were more educated then maybe the need for hospitals would be a lot less but until that happens all measures should be taken to prevent a suffer becoming more ill and often the best prevention method is 24 hour care in a hospital.
So after all this evidence do you really believe anorexics should be left to get weaker and weaker until they are unable to function? What person deserves that before they can receive the care that is required? These people will hide their sadness through smiles because they feel that they do not deserve help and when help is not given this only confirms their beliefs. It is a mental illness not some fad diet, people die from this and yet to get help they have to be dying. Some would see it as a form of every pound lost is one step closer to death. 10% of anorexics will die, 60% will recover and 30% will just continue to live in their own hell according to the National Eating Disorders Association. So why is medical intervention being left so late? It is an illness, just because you can’t see it doesn’t make it any less serious than any other illness that people are in hospital for every day. It has the highest death rate of all mental illnesses, why is this? Because they don’t get help quick enough. This needs to change so people can get their lives back. Life with anorexia is a life not worth living


-WebMD health news
-Huntercombe Hospital Edinburgh
-National eating disorder
-Fife CALMHS team