Tag Archive | Health

A “heads-up”

Last week I was interviewed by a journalist who is putting together a feature for the Sunday Telegraphs’ magazine Stella. I understand that the article is about mental health/illnesses and that a few people and their illnesses will be featured.

I wasn’t sure whether, after the interview, I would be included in the feature but from the feedback I have received it looks positive so keep an eye out over the next few weeks and if I get to know exactly when it will be published I will let you know.

Gungo peas

Leicester is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the UK and food shopping is an obvious example which illustrates our multi-cultural living. I particularly like going to the shops in certain parts of the city where you can buy food imported from around the world.

Sunday is a good day for mooching around and yesterday afternoon we made a quick detour to a Continental shop for some bits and pieces. Whilst hubby was searching for particular items, I was rustling around just looking at the various dried beans, peas and pulses which are a staple part of the Middle Eastern diet when I came across a packet of Gungo peas.

What a fabulous name, Gungo peas and, as I haven’t a clue what to do with said Gungo (or pigeon) peas, I left them on the shelf not wanting to buy something just because I like the name. I am now wishing that I had put a packet in my basket as not only were they cheap (99p for 500g) but having done some research I find out that they are nutritionally full of protein, fibre, low in fat and most importantly they are an excellent source of tryptophan.

For anyone suffering with low mood or depression, foods containing tryptophan are well worth getting to know as “tryptophan is the direct precursor, or starting material, of serotonin. Your tryptophan intake affects the amount of active serotonin your brain makes. Serotonin levels affect your mood, your ability to sleep well, and your food cravings.

Tryptophan is prescribed as an antidepressant, and is apparently particularly effective in relieving certain types of depression (bi-polar and menopausal). Turkey and milk are good sources of tryptophan as are eggs, dairy products, some nuts and seeds. 

As with many suggestions for foods that apparently help with low mood and depression, I suspect that it is more complicated that just eating platefuls of Gungo peas but with a little effort and a few dietary adjustments, food can undoubtedly help improve and maintain mental wellbeing just as it helps physical health.

There are several recipes for using Gungo peas available, so next time I am shopping and come across Gungo peas I will buy some and ask hubby to prepare a dish or two to see what they are like.

Watch this space…..

Exercise & depression-the debate

Personally I have always found that moderate exercise helps my depression and low moods and, as long as I don’t overdo it (easier said than done when blessed with a highly competitive personality) it is definitely beneficial to my recovery from depression and low mood. In fact, everyone I speak to has said the same so I was surprised to learn that there is some debate about the impact of exercise on mental health and that one study in particular has found that partaking in an exercise activity of their choice had no impact in the population who took part.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18335173

Having just restarted on the exercise trail I won’t be unduly influenced by these findings and, like many depressed others, will continue to reap the mental and physical benefits of my exercise exploits whatever they may be.

So don’t stop now!

Mens sana in corpore sano…….

6 months clean

No anti-depressants, no counselling, no psychotherapy, no sleeping tablets, no set-backs, no devastating “lows” and equally, no manic-high energy phases either. No dibilitating exhaustion, no persistent nagging expectation. In short, no depression.

Instead a calmer, more philospohical approach to day-to-day living, accepting slight swings in mood as perfectly normal and nothing to panic about. Final realisation that I’m not Superwoman and never have been (only in my head) and I can only do my best. If my best isn’t good enough, I’m destined for other things but actually, my best isnt that bad.

Beware the saboteur…..

Losing weight is hard enough, but to have a saboteur waiting in the wings is rather galling. Especially when it’s my husband who has promised his support in my quest to be a little slimmer. 

Mmmmm….it didn’t last long.

Inspired by my Facebook friend who will soon  be half the woman she was by the time I next meet her for lunch, I forced myself to change into my new (bigger) running shorts and trainers and headed for the treadmill in the garage armed with bottle of water and sweat towel. (It made me feel good even if I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do much first time out.)

I struggled to remember where the “on” switch is :( but managed to sort myself out with a suitable speed (not very fast) and incline (not very steep) and a quiz programme to watch on the TV so I could get going.

I had only walked for 2 minutes when I realised that hubby, bless him, had come into the garage and lit up a cigarette! I don’t like smoke at the best of times, but after psyching myself up to start exercising, I didn’t need to be running through a fog of nicotine and my clothes to smell of smoke. So, I stopped. And I swore. And I shouted. And I stormed off in a sulk.

I’m still sulking but sanguine. Hubby’s still hiding in the Doghouse (local pub).

Tomorrow’s another day.

Here we go again!

Portion control, planning, plenty of water and Pro-Points. It can only be WEIGHTWATCHERS!

The time has come to knuckle down and shift some of this excess blubber. It has to happen before it’s too late and becomes a permanent fixture into my dotage. I almost started my latest weight-loss journey yesterday, but an attack of the shakes travelling home on the train  (low blood sugar) scuppered my valiant attempt and desperately searching through my handbag I miraculously found a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk!

Now I could have got away with that (I get 49 points a week to spend on misdemeanours) if I hadn’t then heard the news that Alex McCleish had been sacked by Aston Villa.  Celebration was a must and so we stopped off at the pub on the way home for a couple of “pints on Alex”!  More misdemeanours and points running short in supply.

This morning however, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she has just lost 3 stones, and is starting out on ditching stone number 4. WOW! What an achievement and so inspirational just at the right time for me. Back on track and a successful day. I need lots more successful days.

Determination, discipline and dedication.

It must be WEIGHTWATCHERS.

I’m fed up…

no, not with life. With the constant stream of celebrities and high-profile sportsmen and women admitting to having depression. In itself this is not a bad thing, it’s just that it’s getting boring. Those of us who suffer with depression know how debilitating it is; know how it affects work and family and even with the spurt of admissions from well-known people over the past 12-18 months has anything changed?

I’m not sure. It all seems very “old hat” and repetitive. So what we need now  is for someone to highlight the next steps. What has the Government, NHS, businesses, charities, anyone done to improve treatment of depression and eliminate the stigma attached to mental illness? Undoubtedly it helps if more people talk about mental illness but someone needs to listen to the man and woman “on the street” too. Everyone who is struggling to cope under difficult circumstances not just those in the public eye.

I have particular sympathy with sportsmen and women with the ultimate in competitive personality  who don’t get the psychological support required in this day and age to cope with the extreme ups and downs of competition. That is a failing in our sporting structure that we are aeons behind other countries in looking after the mental health welfare of our sports stars but even so, they are only a small minority when considering the impact of depression on the population as a whole. Have Freddie, Stan, Brian et al had to endure a “fit to work” assessment from ATOS?  I’d be interested to know what the GB Olympic Committee have done to minimise the risk of post-Olympic depression as suffered by some after Beijing. 

I’m lucky. Having admitted to my depression 18 months ago, my employer has made mental health it’s priority for 2012 and is involved with several initiatives to try to help all employees who are debilitated by mental illness and to educate all employees in how to avoid stress-related depression. We are not perfect but we are trying. I hope that the recent revelations by the likes of Freddie and Stan lead to positive action being taken to help everyone.

Afterall I believe that this is no longer an illness suffered by the minority. It is more widespread that anyone can imagine.

Let’s DO something about it.

Devastating depression

As Mental Health Champion at work I regularly get calls from my colleagues asking for information, support and guidance about depression either for themselves or for others they know who are suffering. I am often talking to people in confidence about their life, friends and family and privy to sensitive and personal information revealed as a result of their low mood and obvious symptoms that something is very wrong. All this in the hope that I will be able to help in some small way.

Thankfully I am pleased to say that I can usually help if only by giving them information about where to get the help and support offered by our employer, friends, family and mental health organisations together with the clinical support critical to early diagnosis and improved chances of complete recovery. I pride myself on my ability to listen without judgement and to offer practical solutions to immediate concerns. By being open and honest about my experience with depression I am helping others fight and come to terms with their own battles against mental illness and importantly fighting the stigma still attached to mental illness.

Not a lot shocks me any more. As Indiana Jones quotes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage” and I have covered a good few many miles over my half a century so all in all I tend to take things that people tell me in my stride. Since being back at work after the Christmas and New Year holidays however I have been truly shocked. Shocked not with what people have confided in me, but bowled over by the sheer number of calls, texts, emails and meetings I have had with colleagues asking for help. This is so sad. January is always a difficult time for many with long, dark days. Too much month left until PayDay and an overall deflated feeling after the over-hyped celebrations of Christmas and New Year but somehow this year feels worse than usual.

For me personally I have already seen a good friend signed off work for a month with suspected BPD; A team trying to deal with open and misguided prejudice against a colleague off sick with depression; someone else re-admitted to The Priory Clinic just 5 months after a failed suicide attempt. If I know this number of people and a lot more besides who are suffering with depression, anxiety or other mental illness how many more are out there? You may know a few; a lot; no-one if you are lucky but please spare a thought for those in despair and try to help where you can.

We all know that the economic situation ain’t great. People generally have less money than before and reading the newspaper headlines can be depressing in itself. But remember. You don’t need money to show compassion and help others who are struggling to cope. Depression is non-discriminatory and is no respecter of riches or achievements. Depression can strike anyone at anytime and I for one would like to know that in times of trouble I can rely on my friends, family and colleagues to be patient, kind and understanding so I can get back on my own two feet as soon as I possibly can.

Bear this in mind, not just this month, but all year. It’s not too late to add another resolution to your tally.

“Be kind”

The Samaritans

08457 909090

Goodbye 2011, hello 2012

Like many people I found 2011 a challenging and demanding year for a number of reasons, the most frustrating of them was feeling below par mentally, physically and emotionally. Good health should never be taken for granted and I realise now that I am “at that age” (as everyone keeps telling me) when I have to work at keeping as healthy as I can. It’s not so easy maintaining a sensible weight and building sufficient exercise into my daily working routine. I need to relax more and look after myself if I am to see in many, many more New Years to come!

So.

My New Year’s resolutions are just that. Look after myself. Eat healthy foods. Exercise a little more and enjoy whatever life brings along the way. I’m not setting targets or deadlines as I can find them counter-productive if not met so I will try my best to keep my resolutions at the forefront of my thinking so I don’t lose the overall focus of just being healthier all round.

Fingers crossed that this time next year I will be lighter, healthier, buzzing with energy and “looking forward” to celebrating my half-century!

Fat & fifty?- No thanks.

Fighting-fit, fabulous, feisty and fifty?- absolutely.

Bring it on! 

 

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2011

We are fast approaching International Day of Persons with Disabilities recognised each year on December 3rd. The 2011 theme?

“Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development”

A great committment for sure but I prefer something a bit more simple and closer to home so for 3rd December 2011 I am going to pull together some inspiring stories and artwork (photos, paintings, crafts, musings) from some very talented people who suffer with mental illness and collate them in a celebration of our combined and extensive ABILITY.

This is assuming of course that we think that depression and other forms of mental illness are disabilities and we consider ourselves disabled.  It would seem that the majority of people surveyed in research carried out by the Depression Alliance and RADAR during 2009/10 thought that depression is a disability and are prepared to badge themselves as disabled in order to tap into a number of resources only available to the disabled community.

And what do I hope to achieve by showcasing this talent produced by the “mentally disabled?”

  • Mental illness should not be a barrier to achievement and success.
  • With encouragement and support we can live normal lives and recover to hold down jobs, look after our families and enjoy ourselves.
  • We are resilient and loyal
  • We are exceptionally talented and we should exhibit this talent freely.

I know lots and lots of very talented people across all spheres who have mental illness of one type or another so I may have to dedicate all my posts during December to this cause. I will enjoy doing that and I will be in touch with you soon…….

Big Ben on a winter evening - Drawings - Gallery

Big Ben on a winter’s evening-by Stephen Wiltshire