A new issue of Turtle Way, Write into the Light’s online mental health journal, was just published. Check it out here!
A new issue of Turtle Way, Write into the Light’s online mental health journal, was just published. Check it out here!
Turtle Way™ is Write into the Light’s online creative arts magazine showcasing the work of individuals suffering and recovering from mental illness. Its mission is to offer experience, strength and hope to those who are living with mental illnesses.
Each issue of Turtle Way™ may include poetry, photography, artwork, and prose (including quotes, meditations, opinion pieces and essays) from individuals with mental illness and/or those who love them.
It has been quite some time since an issue has been published, but I would like to put another one together soon. So, please check out the submission guidelines here if you are interested in being a part of this project.
According to recent research, about 14% of people with bipolar disorder experience migraines and another 24% experience some other form of chronic pain. That’s almost a third of people with bipolar disorder who are in some sort of serious pain!
In particular, migraines affect 1 in 7 persons with bipolar disorder, which is 3 times more likely than the general population. I’ve been living with chronic migraine for ten years now. Some days I feel like it’s a death sentence. Some days I wish that sentence was carried out. My doctors are still trying to figure out a way to decrease the frequency of my 8 to 12 migraines per month. Apparently, “bipolar disorder and migraines are multifactorial in etiology—there appear to be vascular, cellular, molecular, neurochemical (serotonergic and noradrenergic), and genetic (KIAA0564) components in common between bipolar disorder and migraine conditions.”
In general, people with mental illness who experience chronic pain tend to have worsening symptoms of their illness. Often doctors do not take seriously the complaints of physical pain from those individuals who have mental illness. A lot of times people with mental illness have increased sensitivity to pain because they are experiencing depression. Also, because they are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, many times people with mental conditions do not seek the medical care they need to address their physical pain. This leads to greater functional impairments, poorer quality of life, increased disability, and increased risk of suicide compared to those without pain.
Sometimes tricyclic antidepressants or other select antidepressants can be used to help minimize physical pain symptoms as well as address depression symptoms in some patients. Care needs to be taken in patients with bipolar disorder, however, due to the increased risk of triggering a manic episode in those who take antidepressants alone. Often times, a mood stabilizer will be used in conjunction with the antidepressant in these patients.
This is exactly the treatment I am currently receiving under the care of my physician. I am excited to see if it will decrease the frequency of my migraines while addressing my depression and anxiety symptoms at the same time.
Non-pharmaceutical treatments for physical pain and some mental illness symptoms can include things such as meditation, yoga, exercise, prayer, talk therapy, and diet modifications.
Work with your doctor to figure out what may be the best course of action for you. The most important thing is to not give up hope and to never give up trying to find a way out.
Do you ever find that noises are just too loud? Lights are too bright? Scents that don’t seem to bother others are noxious to you? You’re always either cold or hot? You find yourself exhausted after spending time with people? If so, you may be what psychologist, Elaine Aron, calls a “Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).”
HSP have super sensitive nervous systems that pick up on external stimuli more easily than most other people’s do. They also have a hard time filtering out or ignoring cues in their environment that are irrelevant to their situation.
For example, when having a conversation with someone at a party, a HSP may become distracted by the other conversations going on around them instead of being able to tune them out. Or they may not be able to concentrate on reading a book in a quiet room with a clock ticking softly nearby.
Cluttered countertops, the noise level of a cheering crowd at a sporting event, a crying baby, a windy day, a sunny day, a hot day, tight clothes, or a dirty bathroom can all send a HSP over the edge into an anxiety attack or severe agitation.
HSP also tend to over respond emotionally to situations. They can easily pick up on the emotions of others and can even feel drained or stressed out by negative emotional content portrayed on television or in movies.
Because of their decreased ability to regulate their emotional response to stimuli, HSP often have mental health disorders such as bipolar, depression, and anxiety.
All of these things can help a Highly Sensitive Person thrive. Are you a HSP? How so? What helps you cope?
Do you feel depressed during the winter months? Do you get the post-holiday blues that seem to hang on through February? If so, you may suffer from SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD is a mental illness that consists of clinical depression which manifests during the winter months when the daylight hours are shorter. Researchers report that the decreased exposure to sunlight during the winter months could lead to an increase of melatonin and a decrease in serotonin, both of which are brain chemicals that need to be at appropriate levels to keep an individual’s mood healthy.
Couple that with colder temperatures, which often keeps people indoors more than usual and you have a recipe for fatigue, decreased activity, decreased motivation, sadness, increased appetite, sleep disturbances, and poor concentration.
For many people, light therapy is an effective way to combat SAD. Sitting in front of a specially designed light box for a brief period of time each day can affect the brain chemicals that affect your mood. It is best to follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding light therapy, and special precautions need to be taken for those individuals with bipolar disorder since light therapy can induce mania.
Maintaining an active social calendar can help ward off SAD during the winter months. It is easy to want to stay inside the home where it is safe and warm, but that leads to isolation which increases depression symptoms. Make a plan to put regularly scheduled activities on your calendar and stick to them no matter how you feel.
Attend church once a week or more. Plan a weekly lunch or dinner or coffee date with friends or family members. Join a writers’ group or other hobbyists’ group that meets weekly or bi-weekly. Go to weekly support groups. Take a continuing education class at the local college. Join a gym. Take an exercise class or cooking class or photography workshop at the local community center; anything to put yourself in contact with other people with whom you can socialize and form bonds.
Some people need medication to help manage their SAD symptoms or need adjustments made to their current medications. If you feel symptoms of SAD, which are listed below, for more than a week or two, contact your doctor for help.
Don’t let SAD symptoms go on and on, thinking they will go away on their own. SAD is a serious disorder that needs professional treatment. Call your doctor for help. And if you are currently having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme mood episodes ranging from mania to depression. Anxiety can be a symptom of bipolar disorder as stated by Dr. Emil Kraepelin, back in 1921. The International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) also claimed that anxiety is a symptom of bipolar disorder in a Task Force report on “mixed states” in bipolar disorder. They described this anxiety as:
Individuals in mixed states may feel increased energy and have racing thoughts while also experiencing hopelessness and despair. They may have insomnia and increased risky behavior but also feel empty and blank inside and have unexplained crying spells.
While anxiety can be a symptom of bipolar disorder, it can also be a separate condition in addition to bipolar disorder. Having more than one condition or disorder is referred to as “co-morbid” and basically means that the two conditions stand alone and are not a symptom of one or the other.
It is important to know the difference because if the anxiety is coming from the bipolar disorder then it should get better when the bipolar disorder gets better. If not, then when the bipolar disorder is stabilized, the anxiety may still persist.
There are several types of anxiety disorders. They include:
Regardless of whether the anxiety is a symptom of the bipolar disorder or in addition to the bipolar disorder, mood stabilizers are recommended as first line treatment choice due to the potentially mania-inducing risk of antidepressants in patients with bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy is sometimes then recommended even before antidepressants as well.
~ Guest post by Jackie Cortez
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness. And while treatment is available, it’s often underutilized.
For many people, mental illness can be something that troubles them periodically in life but never something that incapacitates them. For others, mental illness can be completely debilitating. What’s important is recognizing mental illness and treating it with the best approach for people so they may live healthy, productive lives.
While there are social stigmas attached to mental illness, it is the self-stigma that can be the most dangerous to a person’s overall well-being. A person with a mental illness may feel ostracized from his peers and turn to outward or inward destructive behaviors to cope. These may materialize as bursts of aggression, depression, or isolation or as reckless actions including sexual promiscuity and alcohol abuse and drug abuse. A mental illness makes it difficult to see past the negative aspects of today to the bright and beautiful possibilities of tomorrow. It is estimated that more than 90% of suicides are committed by persons with a diagnosable mental disorder. Approximately half of these individuals will struggle with drug or alcohol abuse before their death.
If you’re struggling with a mental illness, you should take extra care to take care of yourself. Stress takes a toll on the body and can cause headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, upset stomach, and fatigue. These symptoms’ impact can be lessened through protecting your physical health. It is easier to maintain good mental health habits when your body – your foundation – is strong.
It is important to exercise daily. This may be done individually or in a group setting as exercise provides the body with natural stress relief hormones. Maintaining a balanced diet devoid of processed foods, including sugars, additionally goes a long way toward whole-person health. Sleep is essential and most adults require between seven and nine hours each night; a brief 30 minute nap in the early afternoon can also offer a person with a mental health disorder a bit of a boost. Most importantly, drugs and alcohol should be avoided completely as, despite common belief, these substances actually exacerbate stress and depression.
A mental illness will not go away overnight. However, many people find they are less affected when they practice these good mental health habits:
Negative emotions happen and it is important not to dwell on them or pass judgment. Understand that it is how you react to these emotions that matters. Recognize them but don’t get caught up in the moment.
Even in your deepest, darkest hour, positive things are going to happen in your day. It could be as small as a glimpse of the mountains or fresh ocean breeze. When they happen, pause and enjoy. It may help to keep a journal and write down one good thing that happens each day. You can go back and read about your happy days when you’re feeling sad or stressed to remind yourself that not everything in life is bad.
There are virtually countless support groups in every city in every state for people struggling with mental illness. You can perform a quick online search for groups in your area. Know that you cannot solve things on your own and there are people out there who, like you, are dealing with invisible and taboo issues. Spending time with others will not only help you get things off your chest but will keep you connected to the world around you.
If you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health issue, such as depression or drug abuse, get help. Always remember there is no shame in asking for assistance from others, be they medical professionals, family, or friends. Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to look at the world with a fresh set of eyes.
~ Jackie Cortez works with The Prevention Coalition to identify and highlight resources on every aspect of substance abuse, ranging from prevention to addiction treatment. Her mission is to use her writings to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse.