Few thoughts from holiday

Happy Summer everyone. We’re all in need of a break, so volunteers are taking the last 3 weeks of August off, to recharge and put together a plan for when we start events again in September. If you’d like to be one of the volunteers and make a difference, feel free to contact any of the volunteers, whose boards you can find here, at the retreat’s inworld parcel. And this being a peer to peer support group, you don’t have to be a professional, but a person who wishes to get involved and make a difference in mental health. Remember group chat is always at your disposal if you need to talk and we’ll see each other back soon. Have a lovely rest of month of August! 

On a different topic there’ve been some discussions within the group, in regards to Robin William’s death, and I’m sure it’s a present subject in the media, social media around you, so as a response we found something just now that will hopefully bring some light, I know reading it is at least soothing. Take a look,share a thought and know that we are still here for one another, despite the 3 weeks holiday from the group. Group chat and discussions and comments on this blog are always at your disposal. Friendly hugs and happy healing ❤

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Illustrations and text made by Erika Moen, whose I want to live project you can find here

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Mental Relaxing Techniques

Mental Relaxation

On Friday, August 1st we had a group meeting about how using Mental Relaxing Techniques could help you clear your mind as well  as strengthen it. It doesnt matter if you have a illness, disorder or not these techniques could be beneficial to you mind body and soul. There was also a list that was showing 100 ways to reduce or cope with stress.

A special Thank You to our newest volunteer, Kira Black, for facilitating this lovely gathering and to all those that participated.

Physical activity is also good for your mental health. exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can also boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep, look and feel better.

Leading an active life can help raise your self-worth and improve your confidence. It can help you feel valued – and value yourself. Exercise and physical activity can provide something worthwhile in your life. Something that you really enjoy, that gives you a goal to aim for and a sense of purpose.

Deep breathing is one of the easiest stress management techniques to learn, and the best thing about it is that it can be done anywhere. When we become stressed, one of our body’s automatic reactions is shallow, rapid breathing which can increase our stress response. Taking deep, slow breaths is an antidote to stress and is one way we can turn off our stress reaction and  turn on the relaxation response. Deep breathing is the foundation of many other relaxation exercises.

Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.

Put one hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage.

Slowly breathe in through your nose. Your stomach should feel like rising and expanding outward. Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely and letting your stomach fall.Practice several times a day.

Practicing progressive muscle relaxation

Most progressive muscle relaxation practitioners start at the feet and work their way up to the face.

Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.

Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.

When you’re relaxed and ready to start, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.

Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.

Relax your right foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and the way your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.

Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.

When you’re ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.

Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.

It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.

 

Practicing body scan meditation

Lie on your back, legs uncrossed, arms relaxed at your sides, eyes open or closed. Focus on your breathing , allowing your stomach to rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Breathe deeply for about two minutes, until you start to feel comfortable and relaxed.

Turn your focus to the toes of your right foot. Notice any sensations you feel while continuing to also focus on your breathing. Imagine each deep breath flowing to your toes. Remain focused on this area for one to two minutes.

Move your focus to the sole of your right foot. Tune in to any sensations you feel in that part of your body and imagine each breath flowing from the sole of your foot. After one or two minutes, move your focus to your right ankle and repeat.

Move to your calf, knee, thigh, hip, and then repeat the sequence for your left leg. From there, move up the torso, through the lower back and abdomen, the upper back and chest, and the shoulders. Pay close attention to any area of the body that causes you pain or discomfort.

Move your focus to the fingers on your right hand and then move up to the wrist,  forearm, elbow, upper arm, and shoulder. Repeat for your left arm.

Then move through the neck and throat, and finally all the regions of your face, the back of the head, and the top of the head. Pay close attention to your jaw, chin, lips, tongue, nose, cheeks, eyes, forehead, temples and scalp.

When you reach the very top of your head, let your breath reach out beyond your body and imagine yourself hovering above yourself.

After completing the body scan, relax for a while in silence and stillness, noting how your body feels. Then open your eyes slowly. Take a moment to stretch, if necessary.

Color Theory Discussion

Color Theory

On Wednesday, July 23rd, a group gathered at Mental Health Retreat to discuss the topic of Color Theory. Thank you Amity, for facilitating this lovely evening and thank you all for participating and contributing ideas to it!

The basis of color theory is the idea that a color, as well as particular shades, can cause us to feel different emotions. Members of the group identified different colors and the messages that they are supposed to send. Light green and blue are supposed to make people feel calm, which is why they are often used in hospitals, even to the extent that walls are painted in those colors. Lavendar and other light purples are supposed to make people drop their guard and be more truthful. Red is used as a warning color and is supposed to make us feel the urgency to stop moving. It has been said by some researchers that wearing garments of the same color as your eyes has the effect of making people more likely to think you are trustworthy and therefore open up more readily.

The group agreed that the meanings and emotions we feel when we see particular colors are related very closely with our cultural beliefs and understandings. Through the discussion we found that not everyone views each color the same way. But that is also what makes us unique. Some people shared that certain colors make them feel uncomfortable, like green and yellow. It was difficult to pinpoint exactly why. It was also brought up that people who are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum might not even be affected by color. Part of this certainly has to do with socialization, but the group raised the question: Do particular cognitive or mental conditions cause us to react different or not react at all to color? Brain chemistry could play a role, as well.

What is your take on this, reader?

Advocacy and Awareness for Mental Health discussion sum-up.

On Wednesday, July 16th, at Mental Health Retreat we had a group discussion on the topic of ‘Advocacy and Awareness’, facilitated by Sigh Underwood, whom we’d like to very much thank at this point.
Also, a thank you to a Ewan, Jayne, Nique, for participating and all the great ideas. We feel very fortunate to we have your voices as part of the Mental Health Retreat!
One of the biggest Challenges those with Mental Illness face when it comes to the general public, that is fear. People are afraid of things they don’t understand. So of course the solution is to raise awareness and Advocate on the behalf of those living with Mental Illness… But how exactly do we go about that?
Today, Social media makes it both incredibly easy and supremely difficult at the same time…
On one hand we have a wider audience to spread advocacy and information…but we also have to contend with the trolls and darkness that is the interwebs creating lies and stigma about what Mental Illness truly is.
And the media in general, really, pretty much. The News is one of the greatest enemies of Advocacy. The first thing to touch on in a lot of scenarios were “Mental Illness was a Factor” with out truly explaining the situation.

So…as someone who might be living with Mental Illness, or cares for those with Mental illnesses…How do you think we would do them Justice…what do you think we could do that might effectively begin to wipe out the stigma? [Feel free to post your answer in the comment section below]. Here’s some answers from the discussion:
– If more people “came out” about their mental illnesses then more of the public would be more understanding eventually because they would see that so many suffer and yet still lead halfway normal lives.
– Disclosing living with a mental illness to a few people at work and seeing their reactions. Seems to be easier to sit and explain it to someone one-to-one but that hardly gives you the reach you need to get Society to understand.
– Some people have created Youtube Channels chronicling their experiences with Mental illness has created a very positive outpouring of support There are countless videos explaining away a lot of the myths of Tourrettes
– Using the social media as a tool for sharing stories about personal lives with mental illness, etc

We just need to be louder. Prouder. But that is so much easier said than done. When you’re already thinking negatively anything negative is just… reinforcement. And truth be told, it can be just so hard to do it. You put yourself out there at risk of losing so much. It’s easy to be loud and proud but… Mental Health isn’t the popular cause at the moment.
This is where Caregivers come in..Negativity is damaging but instead of Sheltering those who are cared for from it…we face it head on. Respectfully. With Facts, with hard concrete information. To inform…we must first be informed. So where does Advocacy and Awareness start?
Everything starts with the individual. It’s important to learn as much about your condition as possible and be accepting of what you can and cannot change. Through that self-acceptance and education, you can then feel more confident to speak up. Getting educated, yourself. The more you know…the stronger your voice is. And the better you can manage your illness also. And better to have your facts… otherwise you’re part of the problem, really. Confidence is easy to lose when you’re unsure…but when you -know- the facts, when you -know- common misconceptions and how to disprove them…then you no longer need personal confidence. You have the confidence of True to life facts and figures. And with that…comes personal Confidence.

‘How do you want to be represented and advocated for in Your community?‘, a study asked those living with some forms of mental illness. Answers ranged from With Compassion, With Understanding, without ridicule, without pity., With Cookies. What is your take on this, dear reader?

Besides knowing and informing…How can I advocate?
The answer was fairly basic but powerful. I can Advocate most powerfully for those in my care simply by Loving them. Another way is collecting and sharing personal stories of people coping and living with mental illness, testimonials, with their permission. If more of us would be brave enough to put ourselves out there, maybe we could truly destigmatize.
Also, we need more Caregivers. Not so much in the Professional sense…but a Loved one or friend to stand beside you and yell your story just as loudly. A sort of support network.
Folks with mental health problems have developed a strength of character that the public should know..We often have to endure such inner pain so silently for so long, it really does change our character and make us very strong people. And we get stronger from each battle we survive. Saying all this is well and good, but sometimes getting your story out there is hard.
So, Gaining knowledge in the first step and working up the courage to at the very least allow someone else to share our stories is a great second step. Sharing our own stories is a better third step.
We are aware that fear of rejection is a huge factor. But when you come forward with Facts…You can try to solidify in your mind…They can reject it all they want. -I- know it’s true…and therefore their rejection cannot hurt me. Also, from groups like MHR or other mental health support groups, folks can build up their courage and give strenght to each other..

It can be quite bothersome on such a basic level that stigma against illnesses of the brain are even there. It is mindblowing because the brain is just another organ. Telling someone who suffers from depression to just ‘get over it’ is like telling a diabetic to just ‘produce insulin‘. Also, seems silly to think that left handed people were once discriminated against.
The problem is, the horrid news going about in the media, news meant to shock and terrify, it sheds a very bad light on mental illness…A way to combat this would be to find those who CAN represent the Mental Health Community and fill up the Media with GOOD information, which is also happening in many areas of the world. Canada, the US, Europe, are just some examples. For example, in the US coming up –The MIAW. First week of October I believe. The Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Another example, the World Health Organization (Here PDF).  Worth reading!

In conclusion, a more pointed question…How do you see Mental Health Retreat accomplishing greater Advocacy and Awareness? Show us that you’re a brave individual who gets involved and submit your answers below! Happy healing everyone!

Schizophrenia talk

Schizophrenia talk

On Wednesday, June 25th, over at Mental Health Retreat we had a Schizophrenia class, facilitated by our own Sigh Underwood. Here’s some key-points from it, in hope it’ll be of use to some of you. =)

First off, what exactly is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a complex illness in which people have difficulties in their thought processes leading to hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking and unusual speech or behaviour (known as ‘psychotic symptoms’)
Schizophrenia is not literally a ‘split personality’ as the name suggests, but people with schizophrenia may view the world differently from those around them.
They may sense things that are not experienced by others (hallucinations), e.g. hearing voices (which tends to be the most common hallucination). Sight/Sound/Touch/Taste.
If you are not triggered by “voices” or negative yelling. I encourage you all (later) to check out this Simulation done by Anderson Cooper (From CNN) This is what a typical day might seem like for someone coping with Schizophrenia.

Due to the Delusions and Hallucination they often become Paranoid. Afraid of their surroundings or angry.
In the past, there was a polarized view of schizophrenia, with people being viewed as either ‘ill’ or ‘well’. However, the view has recently shifted to the concept of a spectrum of ‘wellness’ from acutely unwell, through various levels of functioning to ‘well.
This means that individuals with schizophrenia can experience improvements, in terms of learning to cope with the illness, and achieving or regaining levels of daily functioning appropriate for them as individuals. There are various things that can help with this process, and their usefulness will vary from individual to individual. (As with most treatments and Mental illness)
Treatment plays a crucial role for the majority of people living with schizophrenia. Alongside Medication based treatments there are other methods such as learning coping mechanisms, learning about the illness itself, as well as experiencing various therapies.
For some people, painting, poetry or other creative arts are fundamental tools to help them regain balance in their lives. Others find sport and keeping fit are very important to maintain their feeling of well-being. For many people, it is a combination of medication and other approaches that allows them to begin the process of getting better and to stay well.

In closing, here are Myths and Facts about schizophrenia, so you have a better and more wide understanding of it. Friendly hugs everyone! and happy healing ❤

 

 

Münchausen syndrome class sum-up

Münchausen syndrome

Seeing how it’s a topic that’s come up quite a bit lately, and by popular demand by group members, Tuesday at 2pm SLT, at Mental Health Retreat, we had a class on Münchausen syndrome. We learned about WHAT Münchausen syndrome is, TYPES for it, How Münchausen syndrome differs from hypochondria, RISK factors for developing Münchausen syndrome, where the NAME comes from, TREATMENT AND PROGNOSIS available as well as SYMPTOMS. (sources for this article come from wikipedia as well as discussions with group members)

WHAT IT IS?

Münchausen syndrome is a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves. It is also sometimes known as hospital addiction syndrome, thick chart syndrome, or hospital hopper syndrome.

How does it manifest?

Münchausen syndrome goes hand in hand with predominantly physical signs and symptoms, but they also have a history of recurrent hospitalization, travelling, and dramatic, untrue, and extremely improbable tales of their past experiences. People who have Münchausen syndrome are likely to be master manipulators or have a tendency to lie a lot and a flair for the dramatic.

Types of Münchausen

a) Münchausen syndrome is related to Münchausen syndrome by proxy. This refers to the abuse of another person, typically a child, in order to seek attention or sympathy for the abuser. In Münchausen syndrome by proxy, there is an obsessive want to create symptoms for the victim in order to obtain repeated medication or even operations.

In Münchausen syndrome, the affected person exaggerates or creates symptoms of illnesses in themselves to gain investigation, treatment, attention, sympathy, and comfort from medical personnel. In some extreme cases, people suffering from Münchausen’s syndrome are highly knowledgeable about the practice of medicine and are able to produce symptoms that result in lengthy and costly medical analysis, prolonged hospital stay and unnecessary operations. The role of “patient” is a familiar and comforting one, and it fills a psychological need in people with this syndrome.

b) Another type is Arrhythmogenic Münchausen syndrome. This describes individuals who simulate or stimulate cardiac arrhythmias to gain medical attention.

Take note that this disorder is distinct from hypochondria in that those patients with the latter do not intentionally produce their somatic symptoms. So while hypochondriacs actually believe they are sick, Münchausen patients KNOW they are not.

Risk factors for developing Münchausen syndrome ( a.k.a. Why they do it)

Reasons for developing Münchausen syndrome include childhood traumas, growing up with parents/caretakers who were emotionally unavailable due to illness or emotional problems, a serious illness as a child, failed aspirations to work in the medical field, personality disorders, and a low self-esteem.

It seems that Münchausen syndrome is more common in men and seen in young or middle-aged adults. Those with a history of working in healthcare are also at greater risk of developing it.

A bit of side note, here’s article where a mom had faked being pregnant with twins and faked their death in order to get attention from her husband and family.

Where does the syndrome name come from?

The syndrome name derives from Baron Münchhausen (Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen, 1720–1797), a German nobleman working in the Russian army, who purportedly told many fantastic and impossible stories about himself, which Rudolf Raspe later published as The Surprising Adventures of Baron Münchhausen.

In 1951, Richard Asher was the first to describe a pattern of self-harm, wherein individuals fabricated histories, signs, and symptoms of illness. Remembering Baron Münchhausen, Asher named this condition Münchausen’s Syndrome in his article in The Lancet in February 1951.

Moving on to Treatment and Prognosis

As you can imagine, diagnosing Münchausen syndrome is quite difficult and medical professionals or doctors suspecting Münchausen’s in a patient should first rule out the possibility that the patient has an early stage disease that is not yet clinically detectable. This makes it quite easy for them to get the attention they crave.

Providers need to acknowledge that there is uncertainty in treating suspected Münchausen patients so that real diseases are not under-treated. Then they should take a careful patient history and seek medical records, to look for early deprivation, childhood abuse, or mental illness. If a patient is at risk to himself or herself, inpatient psychiatric hospitalization should be initiated.

Medical providers or doctors should consider working with mental health specialists to help treat the underlying mood or disorder as well as to avoid countertransference. Therapeutic and medical treatment should center on the underlying psychiatric disorder: a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

The patient’s prognosis depends upon the category under which the underlying disorder falls; depression and anxiety, for example, generally respond well to medication and/or cognitive behavioral therapy, whereas borderline personality disorder, like all personality disorders, is presumed to be pervasive and more stable over time.

Some symptoms that together point to Münchausen syndrome:

Patients may have multiple scars on abdomen due to repeated “emergency” operations.

Some have frequent hospitalizations, have knowledge of several illnesses, frequently requesting medication such as pain killers, openness to extensive surgery, little to no visitors during hospitalizations, exaggerated or fabricated stories about several medical problems, and more.

There are several ways in which the patients fake their symptoms. Other than making up past medical histories and faking illnesses patients might inflict harm on themselves such as taking laxatives or blood thinners, ingesting or injecting themselves with bacteria, cutting or burning themselves, and disrupting their healing process such as reopening wounds.

Many of these conditions do not have clearly observable or diagnostic symptoms and sometimes the syndrome will go undetected because patients will fabricate identities when visiting the hospital several times. Münchausen syndrome has several complications as these patients will go to great lengths to fake their illness. Severe health problems, serious injuries, loss of limbs or organs, and even death are possible complications.

So there you have it, a bit of info on Münchausen syndrome. What’s your take on this disorder and the ways the Münchausen patients act? Feel free to voice your opinion in comments, we value your input!

 

Creative writing intro class

 

Creative writing

 

On Monday, 3 pm, Mental Health Retreat group had it’s first Creative writing intro class. Using essays as a way to express feelings and intellectual pursuits in an effort to open up new ideas and thought patterns. Impressions ranged from excitement to joy, as it helped their already started blog, to feeling a bit odd about it. Sometimes words fail us and it’s hard to put down on paper what goes on into our heads.

That’s ok, it happens for many people. Think it’s important you find an outlet for them tho, whatever it may be. Creative writing may be one of them, important thing is to try and explore, find a suitable outlet for your specific needs. Well, this actually started as my therapist gave me writing assignments and we ended up talking about how therapeutic writing can be.

Creative writing, in particular, is writing that expresses the writer’s thoughts and feelings in an imaginative, often unique, and poetic way.  It’s been said that ‘ Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. ‘ (Don DeLillo).

That being said, we were dwelling into the discussion of mental health and writing… and were getting to the idea that people who have experienced mental health issues have a better source to draw for, especially perspective wise and making use of their senses and symptoms in their writing.

We started from art in general, and how people who were not labeled as “quite balanced” or equilibrated by society ended up making art trends, if you know where I’m getting at..Insanity, although  not the best chosen word in therapy, can drive to tremendous breakthroughs and cultural movements – surrealism, cubism, dadaism being just a smidge of the avant-garde styles that come to mind now.

Of course not every piece of writing has to be marvelous, it’s not even about that, as mainly when I write, I see it as being done for myself. No pressure. Just..write what you feel, as cliche as it sounds. Even when I write for someone else, write for yourself first.

TIPS on how to get the ball rolling:

  • Get comfortable in preparation for writing, find a secluded place where you won’t be disturbed so you can dive into your thoughts easily.
  • Music can be a great tool to start the ball rolling =) listen to ambient music and it helps my mind wander and kind of focus at the same time ; or it can be a great distraction – experiment and see what works for you.
  • If you are writing, or wanting to, a good idea would be to have a notebook with all the time, or something to jot ideas down on, you’d be surprised how many get lost because of this. Recording on phone might work just as well.
  • Having a general plan in mind might help also, altho not for all people, since some like to be more scatter-minded and associate it with creativity, that’s perfectly fine too
  • Another thing would be..well..I don’t know how many of you watch it, but I’m a huge fan of Mad Men. And I particularly liked one of Don’s advice to Peggy (was on copywriting, but still applies well) . He said..Think about it intensely and then do something else and it will be right in front of you. You can’t force it.

This touching a bit on writers block or maybe that difficulty in expressing into words what’s going on in your mind was mentioned before.  Also, can be seem like your subconscious talking to you, in a way.

I would totally do this in college, as frownded upon as it was. (by some hehe ). Would read the assignment, think about it for days, get a general feel, thenn forget it completely. Go out for a drink or a walk, listen to music, watch some TV, do something totally different.

But working or writting under pressure might not work for everyone, especially with a deadline. Adrenaline helps flood my brain, but it might not for everyone, something to look into and test at least once I think, tho 😀

  • Another thing would be figuring out when the time of day works best for you to write in. It varies for most people. Some of us are a night owls, thriving in the quiet of the night, but some people’s brain function better in the mornings. Important thing is to figure out when it works best for you, to make the most of it.
  • And don’t agonize over what’s being written. We really do tend to be our worst critics. Remember you can always edit later =) and you can show it to whomever you are comfortable with.
  • Last, but not least..the most important thing is to..Have fun with it. Do it mainly because it’s fun, not because you HAVE TO (bleeh :p ). If you feel your storyline is flat or characters stink or are one-dimensional, take a break and get back to it when you are having fun with it \o/

TOPIC FOR NEXT WEEK’S WRITING ASSIGNMENT : The beauty in imperfections. What we wouldn’t have learned if our lives had been perfect.

Can definitely be in any format, like a story or a poem or whatever moves you. And as lenghty as you wish. You can even choose whether to share it or not, totally up to you.

See you soon ❤ Happy writing!