Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
Enjoy! :-)

Monday, 23 August 2010

How Art Can Calm the Mind

Art is an expression of thoughts and feelings, as well as an outlet for creativity. It is well known that mental illness fuels creativity, and being artistic can be a great therapy. The arts can be used as a natural way of calming the mind, and can contribute towards improving the state of your mental health.

As I've said, your mental illness can fuel your creativity; many famous artists and writers alike, are reported to have experienced mental health disorders. I'm not saying being mentally ill mean you will be able to make a living out of being an artist - obviously, if your skilled and passionate, go for it - but art is for us amateurs too.

Being creative can be an outlet for anger and frustration. This seems an obvious one, but think about how you feel after a good moan to a friend about the stress of life; this is how it can feel after expressing these emotions artistically. Indulging your creative side can also help with mental health problems such as anxiety; being artistic provides a successful distraction.

When choosing which method you will use to express yourself creatively, its up to you, but my advice for you would be:

  • choose a method of artistic expression familiar to you (e.g. oils, watercolors, poetry, playing an instrument), or, alternatively, choose a couple of new creative outlets to try
  • choose a method of creativity easily accessible to you
  • don't worry about getting it perfect and, importantly, enjoy yourself!
Admiration of art can also contribute towards calming the undesirable symptoms of a mental illness. From watching a decent film, to reading a book of poetry, or a great work of literature, you can provide yourself with a healthy distraction from negative thoughts and emotions. Going to an art gallery can be both inspiring and uplifting. Visiting an art exhibition at a gallery has two major benefits for those of us diagnosed with a mental illness, especially those with an anxiety disorder; we leave the house and are provided with another healthy distraction. Many art exhibitions and galleries are free to enter - the Internet can be used to find out about free galleries or exhibitions near you - so don't let budget be your excuse not to go.

Expressing yourself through art, in any of its forms, can be a great outlet for unwanted thoughts and feeling, along with being a distraction from them. And, being a spectator of the arts can be extremely motivating.

I'd love to know what your thoughts are on what I have written and how the arts can help with mental health problems.

Monday, 9 August 2010

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BDP) is the mental illness I personally have been diagnosed with when I was 18 (this is the age from which one can be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder). Before doing research for this blog post I was unsure of quite exactly what my diagnosis meant. In my last post (read here) I wrote about the importance of understanding mental illness, and Free Your Mind is all about enlightening yourself to help in the battle against stigma towards mental health disorders, so I would be contradicting myself anyway if I did not learn more about my own diagnosis.

This is what I found.

The primary feature of borderline personality disorder is an extensive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. Those diagnosed with BPD are also prone to being very impulsive. This disorder is one that occurs in most by the time they reach early adulthood.

Impulsive behaviours are highlighted, in what I have found, as a main feature of borderline personality disorder. As I investigate further I will explain how I relate to these behaviours.

Someone diagnosed with this disorder will also have most of the following symptoms:
  • Frantically trying to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and interpersonal relationships; which is characterised by alternating between extremes of idealising the situation and devaluing it, and feeling unworthy of love
  • Significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity; normally in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., sex, substance abuse, spending, binge eating).
I just want to stop listing symptoms for a moment to talk about my experiences with borderline personality disorder and the impulsive behaviours related to it. The two areas I experience impulsive behaviours in most are sex and substance abuse. A few years ago I was in a relationship with a drug addict who also used to sell the stuff, he got me into taking crack and cocaine - which with my impulsive behaviour wasn't hard - and I am not proud to say this but that soon became my main reason for being with him. (However, I did finally pick up my self-respect and ditch him.) My impulses led me to stay in a destructive relationship where I devalued myself to stay with someone for shallow reasons, although he was no saint either, he was abusive and manipulative, which just adds to show the danger the impulsive behaviours of BPD have gotten me into.

Added to the above, my experiences with impulsive behaviours include getting into other kinds of trouble. Unfortunately, at the end of last year, I was raped due to leaving my keys in my front door whilst asleep at night; how this links to impulsivity is that it was from these behaviours that this situation transpired. Almost a whole year before this incident, I had been drinking alcohol (I no longer drink) and decided to go shopping at night, I walked to the bus stop and got talking to two men I met there.I stupidly asked them to come back to my flat, where I decided I liked one but not the other. The one I wasn't interested in left, and I don't think I need to go into detail about what happened next. Almost a year later, the man I had turned down tuned up at my flat, demanding to be let in, I said no and called the police. The next time he came by, I was asleep in bed and had left my keys in the front door.

I'm sharing my experience with you purely to show how I relate to my research. If you do choose to form a negative opinion of me, that's fine, you're perfectly entitled to your own opinion. I just prefer being open and honest.

Back to the list:
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behaviour
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling temper
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid thoughts or sever dissociative symptoms
  • Emotional instability, which is due to significant reactivity of mood (e.g., irritability, anxiety, or intense episodic dysphoria, which usually lasts a few hours and very rarely a few days).
Personally, I can relate to all of the symptoms listed above. I know how frustrating it is to be in a constant flux of emotions My disorder has hindered me from doing things when I wan to do them, such as university and furthering my career, due to hospitalisation, etc. But I'm determined not to give up.

Of course, I have barely scratched the tip of the iceberg in this post, but as I delved into my research I wanted  to at least write about how I relate to what I had found about the main symptoms of borderline personality disorder. I hope to explore this particular mental illness further in future posts.

As always, your comments are more than welcome. If you have anything to add to what I have said and/or an opinion on it, please do share!

New Posts! April 2012 - posted new blog posts on the subject of borderline personality disorder and other personality disorders.

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Importance of Understanding Mental Illness

Mental illness is difficult to understand which can lead to prejudice and discrimination. Misperceptions surround mental illness and people get confused about the different mental disorders. I strongly believe, therefore, it is important to try to understand mental illness.

The importance of understanding mental illness is mainly down to the fact that this is the most effective way of battling stigma towards those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. It is also important due to the commonality of mental illness. 1 in 4 people are diagnosed with a mental disorder, this means that you or someone you love will be affected by mental illness.

Improving your understanding of mental illness is for everyone whether you have been diagnosed with a disorder or not. Learning about mental illness benefits those that have been diagnosed because demystifying your illness may calm any fears you have about it, as well as giving you the tools to manage it. Those with friends or family that have been diagnosed with mental illnesses benefit because it helps them understand suitable ways of helping them. Improving your understanding of psychiatric disorders also helps in the battle of defeating prejudice and discrimination towards mental illness.

Obviously, it would be foolish for me to suggest you find out everything there is to know about mental illnesses, even experts are nowhere near that point. However, a bit of knowledge and compassion can go a long way.

Essentially, understanding mental illness comes down to basic human compassion and empathisation. To understand diagnosed with a mental illness, listening to them and being there for them when they need you is probably the best thing you can do for them. This means you need to know how they are feeling and person is one of the best ways to find these things out.

Learning about specific mental disorders is also a very good idea, and it  doesn't have to be an expensive process either. There are several trusted resources and sources of information on the Internet (see the Links in my sidebar), or, alternatively, you could take trip to your local library.

Expanding on your understanding of mental illness will improve your relationships with other people. If you learn more about your illness and how to handle it, you will find your self-esteem will improve and you will be able to communicate your needs better. Learning about others' illnesses will help you be their for an ill friend or relative when they need you.

So, as you can see, in my opinion there are many reasons for improving your understanding of mental illness, whether you have been diagnosed with one or not. genuinely do believe that removing yourself from ignorance can help make the world a better place.

I would love to know how you think improving your understanding mental illness can help individuals and society.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Alcohol Addiction as Mental Illness (renamed post)

What leads to alcohol addiction? A number of reasons can lead to alcohol abuse; mental illness (although alcoholism is a mental disorder in itself), or a long stressful period, or distressing traumatic event. Alcoholism is a habitual disease, meaning that one gets into drinking as a habit which can be triggered for some reason and the person uses alcohol to feel better and eventually they become reliant on drink. Remember, alcoholism is a mental illness.

Alcohol is a legal drug, so it is easy to get hold of, which means it is more likely for someone to misuse this substance. Alcohol is a downer and, contrary to popular belief, it does not make you happy and giggly - in fact, quite the opposite. Admittedly, it may have this effect at the beginning, but alcohol is also well-known for bringing people down, making them angry or cry.

Believe me my intention is not to lecture anyone! I just hope to answer questions you or anyone may have about alcohol abuse.

I believe, from my observation, is that there appear to be two main types of alcoholics: "functioning alcoholics" and  "full-time alcoholics." Functioning alcoholics are called so because they appear to function well, they can work without drinking and perform many other important daily activities in which they cannot drink without drinking. However, when they do drink, which will still be every day, normally at least 4 or 5 times of the amount of their Guideline Daily Amount. Full-time alcoholics are called so because they will drink from the moment they wake-up to the moment they go to sleep. These people will often suffer from alcoholic fits if they go without a drink for a much longer time than usual.

Dealing with alcoholism is hard on both the sufferer and the people around them. Alcohol addiction is a mental illness, but it is one you can come back from. Help can be obtained from a number of places, including your GP, and as a friend or relative of someone suffering from alcohol addiction you  can help by trying to understand them, and being there for them letting them know how much you care.

Misuse of alcohol can lead to dependency, especially if you already suffer from a mental illness. Trying to understand someone with alcoholism can be difficult, particularly if that person is drunk and angry. But, if you care for that person, your help and support is what they need to beat their addiction.

The above is based on my own experiences and observations of alcoholism. I would love to know what you thought about what I've written in my post and I would also love to know what you think about alcoholism as a mental illness.