Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Remembrance: Lest we forget

To all who are facing death right now or indeed dying...
we promise

"At the setting of the sun, 
(throughout every night) 
and in the morning 
(throughout every day)

We will remember them... 
(through our best of deeds)." 

With love, patience and tolerance from ALL those who save lives 
but particularly ALL healthcare professionals in this our of darkest hours.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Why are we all such bullies?

The title of this article makes for uncomfortable reading, but it is true. We are all bullies and we are also all guilty of the abuse of neglect because to date there is no known human being that is or has been perfect 24 hours a day, seven days a week their entire lives. We get frustrated by everything that doesn’t go our way or that isn’t done in a way that we understand. We automatically get annoyed at the very least by anything that seems unfair or that simply does not suit us.

Like all species on our planet we are all bullies when we want something done our way. We justify that behaviour with an endless stream of ethical reasons which are do not hide the truth at all and throughout it all we snap at each other. We get vicious with others when they won’t stop and think about what they doing to us that upsets us. Worse still, we do these things as part of our daily routine to establish who is in charge and we do it most to those who have helped and supported us the most too.

To psychologists this highlights two unshakeable truths. We are an animal species which, in common with all species on our beautiful planet, fight for our own survival. In the small scale of things the bickers and squabbles over minor things like who’s turn is it to do the washing up do not matter. We are merely establishing who is taking responsibility for what for that hour, day or week. We’re for the most part, more often than not brilliant at doing that in our own homes without too much fuss... most of the time.

In our working lives it becomes a bit more frustrating if you are never given the opportunity to do anything else but make the tea and wash up for everyone else unless you happen to enjoy those roles most of all and some do as they usually get more thank-yous for doing that than anyone else gets for anything else. We argue to establish a hierarchy just like all other animals on the planet, except that they are far more accepting of where they fit best and we do all manner of things to prevent our fellow human beings from ever finding out where they fit best or what they are or could be good at.

This is very silly of us indeed because we also know that those who take on the responsibilities of vast numbers of people suffer from stress, a known cause of mental illness. Luckily most of them do not stay in their lofty positions for more than a few years before they have a change of scene to rest up from all the pressure placed upon them – some though are gluttons for punishment in that they are addicted to fixing things for everyone else... a bit like medical teams really.

It is fortunate that most people do not want and do not enjoy that level of responsibility so why bicker about it at all? Why not share the load instead and work together instead of against each other so that everyone does have the role (or rather roles) that they love or come to love best?

Leaders often want a rest from leading so, doesn’t that imply that everyone could get a chance to try for leadership if they want to enough and work hard enough for people to want them above all others to lead? And it’s the same with fame for just about any human activity... be imaginative, you don’t have to be famous for being a singer, good or bad. Nor though do you have to be famous for being a prat or a dangerous person to others. Choose you ambition according to what will make you happy without causing distress to others.

Primary Schooling

We can never entirely escape our most basic primary instinct which is to succeed and survive as the fittest of all. Therefore the process of bickering (not back stabbing) is set to repeat until the end of time itself. This may sound very grim until you step back from things a see that as a species we do survive and do it rather well overall, except for a few wars and long standing habits of abuse to taint our otherwise very good record.

Perhaps we cause the most damage by becoming envious of others around us which is a foolish thing to do as we actually know so little about what their lives are really like now or have been like as we are not with them every minute of every day. We are even less equipped to know what others make of the same things we are witnessing or experiencing. We resent people who are successful and seem determined to bide our time waiting for the day when they are feeling ill, or have been injured or abused or just not on top form to pounce and push the proverbial (and sometimes actual) knife in, just so that we as individuals get our share of revenge for our own perceived suffering and, if lucky an opportunity to become top dog or - in medical terms - the Alpha leader for a bit.

The irony is that we each stand a much better chance of running things  to lead others by working together and most of all by actually helping those we dislike the most! Psychologists across the globe have also realised that the most successful people in the world have often suffered abuse themselves. Think of Nelson Mandela, Ghandi or Rosa Parks as examples. It is their life stories that inspire us most because they work through their troubles by using their heads to rule their emotions, but they do so without ever losing their sense of compassion for anyone else.

We are not just bullies or abusers - that is only part of what it is to be human. We are diverse, wonderful and full of creative, compassionate intentions too. We are nurturers, builders and healers; developers, teachers and inventors. It is our species alone that has the guardianship of the whole planet and in order to understand that role we have had to break virtually every rule Mother Nature sets out. In order to save life we’ve learned along the way how we can destroy it, in order to extend life, we learned how to shorten it because if we didn’t know how to kill how would we learn how not to kill?

To safeguard the planet from something bigger than us hitting it that could kill us, we have had to learn how to destroy things. We have learned so much about the building blocks of life itself but have learned the hard way as far  too with many brave souls have died in that endeavour simply by not realising the level of danger they were entering into e.g. Marie Curie who died from cancer in her research to find cures for it. We have risked everything for life itself in the past by not being vigilant enough and through letting our passions and emotions rule our heads. We also kill others who are merely doing their bit to help humanity by never letting them rest enough to think straight, even when they are the only ones who understand enough to help fix things! Talk about jack ass thinking – we have been very good at it, but it’s not anything to be proud of.

Taking up the challenge

So how do any of us stop the worst of our behaviours? The answer should be obvious to all by now... by giving ourselves a chance to think first and act only when we have thought everything through thoroughly we stand a much better chance of improving everything that currently troubles us. From  those who are on the frontline saving lives in one role or another to those right at the top trying to decide what’s best for the largest number of human beings possible and of course the rest of us somewhere in the middle – we all need to play a positive role in order to get things fixed according to where our skills and knowledge best fit.  A house won’t get mended if no one knows how to fix it. Nor can it be mended if people don’t know how to make repairs and it can’t ever be repaired if the family that lives there doesn’t tell anyone it needs help if they don’t know how to do it themselves.

It is not just silly to criticise such people. It is dangerous too and risks not only their health but our own lives to do so. Would you want to be treated by a doctor too tired to know what they are prescribing or too confused by what you or others think is wrong with you? Would you like to be talking to a person about abuse or report any crime to someone who has no training in dealing with them, or who will ignore you? Is it fair though on someone who tries to take you seriously if you are lying or are mistaken in what you think happened or is happening and will not listen to them?

The majority of people strive to be honest and law-abiding most of the time, but as stated in the very first paragraph of this article, no one can be on top form for everyone else 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Give each other time to think and rest to be able to make the right decisions and above all else, never take out your frustrations on anyone you see as being weaker or just wrong. You don’t know what they have been through enough to make such judgements, unless you happen to be part of a mental health team who is finding out or have experienced high levels of trauma in your own life AND worked through them with a mental health team.

Mental health teams, in common with all other medical, social service and community care teams can only ever be as good as the amount of work put in by those they try to help. If you as a patient insist on being lazy about putting any work in to get yourself well then you are not likely to ever get better, are you. In a way, health and happiness come down to if you want them more than the attention you get from being ill. Such attention really is a sad and poor substitute for the real thing but to date there are still many too ill to get very far at all as it can all to easily take a whole life to recover from any serious traumatic event. Some such sufferers over the years have shared their sufferings with us. It is high time we acknowledged a few of them for their sheer courage in just being with us still. We are so very glad and honoured to know you most of all. We think you are awesome.

Introducing the Mindwalking contributors

Time to introduce a few people in the Mindwalking team by initials only to safeguard their well deserved privacy and in the case of medics their off-duty time...

AA, AB, AC, AD, AE...

Get the idea? There is barely a two letter initials-only combination that we in Mindwalking haven’t supported either directly or indirectly as we’ll explain later.  More specifically, our most active contributors include...

AG, SC, AM, AW, JH, EE and an interesting pair sharing the same initials KB. One is someone who cannot move, while the other is a fully qualified doctor in psychology not even in the UK! Then there’s numerous MDs of one description or another, mostly doctors with initials such as DI (who probably fancies themselves as a detective as most physicians do), HI (who is always welcoming), LF (who is always up for laugh), PH (a litmus test, we think), PR (who is bound to enjoy marketing), RM (possibly a doctor in the Royal Marines? We’re not sure but it amuses us all to think so) and counsellors JB, PM (er no, not the UK prime minister... as far as we know, but an interesting idea!), SM, TW and VD!!!?  Moving on swiftly...

Back to the really important people - patients... AG (a different one) AP, AR, BW, CE, CL, DD, FC, HB, HS, JB, KT,  VK, MR, M (and just about any other letter actually), NC, NS, PD, PS, SE, SF, SW,  TC, TJ, TK, TP and even a ZE (to name but a few).

It’s been mathematically proven that it takes just six connections from you to be connected with just about anyone on the planet including... ALL world leaders. It has also been scientifically proven that we are all related to each other too. Er yeah, we’re not always comfortable with those facts either! However, from any and every angle it does prove one thing... it’s the height of human stupidity to be mean and nasty, vicious, vile, greedy or jealous of anyone as those very people might well be helping you to stay alive.

“We can never know who anyone else knows or may come to know. Therefore it makes no sense to be nasty to anyone.”

If you can’t be nice, either stay silent and do nothing at all, or book an appointment with someone who is trained to help even the most violent of people but in that event it’s best try not to attack them if you truly want to be happy and well. If you just want to be violent toward others, you might try phoning the police instead as it’s quicker for you to do it than it would be for anyone else. Professionals will never turn away someone that desperate to NOT be violent and NOT cause harm to others – FACT.

So from all at Mindwalking and beyond... have a safe and healthy December and rest of your life.
We have two more posts for you this month but we’ll see how we all feel in the New Year as it occurs to us that people are rather swamped with theories and medical concerns at the moment. Perhaps everyone needs a rest from even more information about mental health too, not least sufferers from those illnesses.  That is what we at Mindwalking collectively think and believe right now. There are plenty of brilliant sites on the internet though if you feel the need to know more.

Take very good care of YOUR health. Nothing is ever as precious to you than YOUR health unless it is the health of your loved ones. Remember to ask your nearest and dearest what they need rather than what they’d like best, won’t you – there is a huge difference.

We’ll be back on Christmas Eve with a remembrance post. If you are not in the mood for that... well you don’t have to read it, do you?  Stay calm, relax and be well and chat to your GP when you need to and anyone else you come to trust.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Cognitive Addictive Dissonance

The title of this article sounds heavy going, but fear not. We at Mindwalking are here to make it simple to understand.

Part 1: Addiction

Firstly addiction. Let's look at what nearly everyone across the globe does understand about that word. We understand that people who are addicted find it hard to stop doing the things that they have become unhealthily addicted to. We know that when people reach that stage it takes a lot of time, energy and resources to help them cut back and/or stop depending on what that particular addiction is doing to them to make them unwell.

When medical professionals identify one addiction they know all too well that actually people are talking about many addictions. Addictions to abuse require more and more access to power and money for them to be fed. Addictions to drink, drugs are the same as too are addictions to shopping, gadgets and indeed to acquiring knowledge itself. Addictions to speculation, assumptions and getting the wrong end of the stick ARE the most dangerous of all.

In short, that is why the whole planet is in the state it is currently in because it is part of our nature to always seek to find out more. It is also entirely necessary too for our own survival. It's not the question of knowledge should be broken, it is merely the levels that need to be within reasonable, safe and health limits; and when fact hunter you need to go to the source(s) that knows the most if they have time to tell you (such as your government, universities and especially medical teams right now). Sadly the UK's medical team has zero time for casual enquiries at present, so note your questions down for when you have a genuine need to see them.

We have become addicted to criticising more than addicted to praising people or thanking them; harming or ignoring people more than helping or healing each other and worrying, fearing and doubting rather than thinking, enjoying and trusting each other. The solution we hope now becomes obvious to rectify the problems. We follow the instructions to the letter of medics don't we, when we know they are right. Ah... we don't. That is not to say we shouldn't though. We simply need to try harder to do so given everything else that is fretting us all and getting us into a psychological pickle.

In many ways that ought to be enough and this article should end there but it can't for the very simple reason that everyone is affected and involved at the same time precisely because our gorgeous planet that we call home is at risk.

100 years ago we went to war because we all were pretty much in the same state of fear and panic as we are now. What's changed then? Why are we NOT in a global armed conflict now actually killing each other to the point of total annihilation? Quite simply because we have learnt a few more tricks to prevent that globally speaking.

It is thanks to all the boffins and world leaders at the top of the tree and the United Nations that we are not. It is thanks to everybody trading and sharing information globally that we are not. How much longer can we keep that up though if at the same time the same level of panic, worry, doubt, anger, bitterness and general muck-raking continues?

Sustained overloads of information always lead to mental illness and in most cases from there some form of psychosis. Think about that. By worrying we risk global destruction AND individual madness. "Yeah but, come on, look at the situation, how can we not worry?" we hear you cry.

The answer to that is to get busy with more helpful forms of... addiction; but rather than have merely one or two, vary those and add in a couple of new ones when ready which also help you toward getting rid of the harmful addictions too. Neat, tidy and above all simple except for all the days, weeks and years it takes to practise, practise, practise to get it just right.

We have to start at some point though, so why not today for five minutes and try to make it every day, just for five minutes. Next week or next month you might be able to manage ten minutes a day or even a whole day of just finding things to distract you from YOUR worries to enable YOU to function more calmly to combat YOUR addictions and fears. AND NEVER forget to pat yourself on the back when you have achieved something and ignore everyone who says otherwise, except of course... for properly trained medics.

Another helpful trick is to use 'mantras'. Mantras are merely catchphrases to help us remember what's important to us and to help us focus. There are many forms of mantra, there's the ones reminding us of our principles, morals, ethics and values (often coming under the heading of spirituality or laws) and then there are the daily ones - the practical reminders. Making lists of things to try to do is not quite the same thing although they too can help so long as you don't make such lists too long.

Mantras for practical things are the HOW TO mantras not the WHY mantras. (We know why well enough - to survive and be happy and live in peace). The 'how' mantras are things like "I will stay calm," or "I will take my time to get this right." and one of the most important of all is "I will not worry that I do not complete everything today."

Creditors can and DO wait if you tell them when you can pay them and there are many support agencies and legal teams to help you if they don't take your word for it so long as you are NOT lying about your financial situation. A GP on call and having a busy week attending to emergencies can't always pay their bills on time either - do they worry about it? No, they do not (while well at least), so why should we? So long as everyone does get paid it should never be a problem.

The final trick that often people find helps them the most is to focus on the number of things that are still working at all, in part or... most of all that NEVER get altered or fiddled with. You can also count the number of times others around you HAVE tried to support you as it will help your realise how loved and cared for you are by them, even if they snap at you or nag you sometimes or often!

People find it helpful to research facts before assuming the worst while recovering from mental illness. Sometimes though, that can make things worse as they may hit upon sad news too, as many researching their family trees are discovering right now. When we do such things together and look after each other while doing it; although it is hard work it is (generally speaking) a healthy and healing thing to do but only when people really feel they need to do it, never when they are forced to.

If the result of that is to distress people more then that suggests that those around them would best help by not talking about such things near vulnerable people. Talking about health and politics and climate change and conspiracies in public has always happened, it is therefore merely the volume and the passion that is the ONLY thing that has changed. Tone both down and everything for everyone automatically becomes much more manageable.

Part 2: Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive what? The word cognitive refers to 'thinking'. As ever it's root comes from that 'dead' language that medical teams (among many others) love to use - Latin. They use Latin, not because it's a tradition but because it happens to work so well to help describe complicated concepts quite briefly to save time, so why change it when lives count on it? It strikes us all here that the less we meddle with things that are working the better right now. 'Dissonance' merely means a clash - it might be of ideas, principles, needs and or wants. Many people mislead us all when they say it means 'conflict' as that tends to conjure up ideas of violence for everyone which is far from helpful in our opinion.

Put the two meanings together and we end up with 'thinking clash' - or to put it another way... a problem. WRONG< WRONG WRONG! A thinking clash is what we deal with every day of our lives. "Do I want a cake or a biscuit?" "Do I buy this or that?" "Do I deal with this first or that?"

More crucially it also covers "who needs the most urgent help now?" Which member of your own family, group of friends or work colleagues never gets much attention, never gets thanked. Who gets thanked and praised too much do you think? Is that because of things you don't know anything about?

Without exception the most seriously ill from any ailment do not want endless fuss, monitoring and questions. Nor do they need endless incorrect assumptions, sadly the mentally ill are the only group who never get a break from all of that which explains why 80% of people who suffer one episode of mental illness suffer and more and more. People never stop raking up and abusing them by using the very fact that they have been ill (past tense) against them. We heard rumours that even managers of international charities are not permitted to litter pick on a voluntary basis to help after they've been mentally ill.

With things as they are making donations to charities, collecting money for them is not quite enough to get us out of our global, national or even individual troubles. Any who can do something to help strangers by donating time and skills could well be all we need, so long as they are are prepared to do exactly as instructed. If everyone gave just two hours a month it would be an improvement but realistically we need a few more prepared to give two hours a week or more.

No one should be lonely, homeless, starving or dying of injuries with no medication to keep them out of pain. No one would be either if we all just gave a little more by joining community groups, charities and local initiatives to help. It boils down to what sort of world do we all want to live in. Like anything else, if we want peace and harmony then we ourselves have to put the work in to earn, merit and get it and BE peaceful and harmonious wherever we go and whoever we meet.

We are superb at dealing with thinking clashes and yeah, sure we don't always get things sorted in the right order but the proof that we do sort things lies in the FACT that we are still here; that life continues, that we are not actually in a global war, that people are working on fixing everything by working in teams where they fit best to put their knowledge to the best of use. We are getting there slowly because at least everyone is beginning to be included into every kind of team you can imagine to do their bit. So...

Which team or teams would you fit best in? There are millions to choose from. How about looking for those closest to home first so that you can still have time off with your nearest and dearest and be closest to your own medical team should you need them? It really isn't as hard as people imagine to sort anything at all.

There, and you thought cognitive dissonance was complicated didn't you? For the professional medical teams working in mental health, yes it is but hey... that's they're headache. No one has or is forcing them to work on it are they?

Thankfully psychology, psychiatric and neurology teams are working on it and all aspects of mental health to try to save even more lives and these days, they don't give a fig about who to connect with across the globe to sort it. They used to, but have grown up because they've had to thanks to every mental health patient in the world telling them they've had to (with a lot of help from their supporters of course).

General medicine has been doing the same for much longer, but then it always did have more support. To help ALL medical services, ancillary staff and support agencies to continue to heal us, we just need to tone down on the volume and the aggression, join a group or two to lend a hand. We know that's possible because in two world wars we've done it before when we have most needed to.

To avert a world war or the planet itself dying, all we have to do is... calm down and act... as normal. Best we repeat that we think in bigger type...

"To avert a world war or the planet itself dying,
all we have to do is ... calm down... and act as normal."

"Really? I mean really, Mindwalking team... really? Is that it?"

Yup! Precisely, exactly, absolutely, neatly, tidily... just that. Who would have thought that we had the answer all the time with the phrase "Keep calm and carry on!" (Although if you could manage to help a little with recycling, being polite and cutting down on waste that might help too!)


We hope no one this winter will feel totally alone and it is our deepest hope
and wish that all our readers and contributors are still with us in 2015. 

Oceans of love from the
Mindwalking Team 2014

Postscript: A bit more about the Mindwalking team. All are volunteers - some have mental health problems, some have not. Some are carers, family and friends and some are professional health care workers specialising in mental health and/or other areas. Some are charity workers and some are... people with disabilities who cannot read, write or even move yet over the years we have also included snippets of their stories too. How? Ah well... best to try talking to them yourselves to find that out!

The actual writers are few which remains a shame as we'd still welcome submissions for consideration. If worded carefully enough, it would be just published unaltered but it has to reach and make sense to all our readers at the same time at some level - which is impossible, but we do our best. (Just so you know should you ever fancy a go)!

Finally, feel free to comment. We haven't had one for quite a while now, but then, we've had our troubles and losses too. We never forget our loved ones either and think of them for every article posted. We know that each and everyone of them wanted us to make this a happy, peaceful world as much as we know YOU do too. So... get busy making it happen then! Doh! 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Lest we forget

This Remembrance Day, please remember that...

"Pain is pain - it's not a competition."

...and please, NEVER forget.
Thank you.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Memento quoniam omnes in aeternum

This year every human on the globe is thinking... and most, we hope, are thinking about WWI, why it happened, what we could have and should have done differently to prevent it. There is always a danger in doing this though because in remembering our lost ones we rekindle the pain of that loss. That pain is so unbearable we can end up hurting and harming the living to start... another war.

This year every human on the globe is remembering... and most, we hope, are remembering their loves ones, not at their worst but at their best. We hope they are remembering all that they ever did that was right instead of all that they ever did that was wrong.

This year every human on the globe is feeling... and most, we hope are hoping that people will not force questions on the bereaved that are unwelcome and that disturb their happy memories.

This year every human being on the globe is hoping... and most we hope are feeling not just the love of family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues but the love due to any human being suffering from any and all sources of pain to our species.

This year every human being on the globe is working hard... and most, we hope, are trying harder than ever to never forget a single soul that is or could be in need of support, of help in their dark hours. From the dying to those trying so hard to live we must remember that at some point in times to come it will very likely be us too.

To the lonely and isolated now, to the traumatised, bereaved and homeless, to the starving, injured, disabled, impaired, distorted, troubled, angered... WE LOVE YOU so please hold on while we try to reach you. Please let us try to help you in the oftentimes cack-handed, crass way that even so we know works for so many.

Why couldn't support work for YOU too? 

Why shouldn't it be YOU next that feels joy instead of pain;
that experiences good luck instead of misfortune and love instead of hate?

Together, let's help heal each other instead of causing harm by making the wrong assumptions as to what people need most at any given point. A person who is starving is not interested much in a roof or warm clothing, they need food first. A person with a crumb of food but no home needs the roof first and all, all need signposting to the millions of agencies and health care professionals who are there to help.

Dear readers wherever you are in the world and in your mind, pause. Think. Remember and make this a vow that year by year we will practise to perfect always providing some means of support so that no one need ever suffer alone or in silence again. By thinking it might be possible we make a significant step toward it becoming a reality.

THIS Remembrance Day 2014, let's start the clock ticking on how many lives we can save, how many ways we can prevent suffering and how many wars we can prevent,

In remembrance of all those already lost to us AND for those in turmoil today; for those about to face disasters and catastrophes in the future,  let's get busy teaching people how to live in peace and harmony.

Go well, stay safe; let's BE the team that we all dream of being to create the heaven on Earth that we've all heard so much of. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Paradox of Paradoxes

Did you know that everyone enters into extreme behaviour of one sort or another as it is human nature to do so. It is the nature of every species on this planet in order to secure it's survival to at times be extreme. Mostly such behaviours are short lived flare ups to rectify a cock-up to bring things back into balance because of something else veering toward an extreme. If we look at what our extreme behaviours consist of things get rather interesting.

Most people reading this blog will have heard of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), but the latest thinking is that we are all inclined to be obsessive over something or other at some point in our lives. It's quite fortunate that some are obsessive about health as without many doing so we wouldn't have the marvellous miracles that lead to treatments to help manage what is currently incurable as well as cures for what can be cured.

We all have our particular favourite things to turn to in our darkest hours, from sports and arts to studying all manner of subjects. We have our retail therapies too but here any of those can all too quickly and easily get out of hand. From alcohol and drugs to fashion and technological gadgetry and of course fame and fortune and political campaigning.

These last three have, in recent years arguably become some of the most dangerous obsession of all for they fuel motivations that lie behind globally dangerous obsessive behaviours. The paradox being that it is not actually fame, fortune or political powers that anyone really craves the most, it is acknowledgement and acceptance for just being human. Our achievements say something about what we can do, but do not in any real sense tell us much about who we actually are either as individuals or as a species.

The news headlines are awash with examples of obsessive behaviours. You don't have to be a compulsive abuser in the form or a rapist or terrorist to make the news. You just have to excel or be extreme at something, from finance to science, from making things to organising - the media tells us that to be successful requires us to be extreme - including reporting things!

Another angle to look at obsessive behaviour from is that of being dedicated, focussed and determined to become high achievers. It's an interesting question as to whether we are wise to encourage more people to become experts in their field as their journey is often a dangerous one. They often come from disturbing backgrounds and those that don't soon find the level of responsibility to be a genius 24/7 a pain in the neck with no time off. The result is often a serious and long-term if not life-long mental illness of some descriptive or another.

It is perhaps not surprising that given the primary purpose of any species is to reproduce that so much abuse comes in a sexual format as it is another coping strategy obsession. Most of us luckily know where to draw the line and respect other people's boundaries, sadly the damage caused by those who don't profoundly affects everyone in the world, our social structures and how laws are shaped by our governments. The same is true of financial abuse but as to psychological abuse, sadly as we are all guilty of it we'd have to lock ourselves in prison permanently to eradicate it from our planet and the universe beyond.

We cause psychological abuse daily by judging each other unfairly and by not reporting things that we know we should and we are very good at coming up with thousands of excuses for both avoiding doing the 'right thing'. Why do we do that though? The answer is because we have to in order to have a sense of order and structure to be able to function at all. We all have a limit on how much responsibility we can take on our shoulders at any given point and that limit continually varies as we journey through life. At no point in history has everyone reported every crime they have witnessed (the authorities haven't the man power to cope if we all did), but to fail to come forward once serious crimes have been reported is rapidly becoming too serious a matter to tolerate any more. Most petty crimes as a society we self-regulate on and that process starts at school by being told off for pulling someone's hair or for stealing sweets.

The most recent obsessions to emerge in the media are those concerning conspiracy theories and human rights. All governments are conspiratorial because they have to be to keep people safe from causing harm to themselves and the rest of their nation and the indeed the rest of the world. Human rights it seems have become confused with human needs.

Yes, we have a right to express ourselves, but is it right to do so when it causes pain and suffering to others? Human needs will always outrank freedom of speech in this regard but it would help if governments throughout the world would say "yes, we know what the problems are and these are our thoughts on how to fix things. If you have better ideas for a solution here's how to contact us." Cruel and abusive dictatorial regimes no doubt will be the first to invite people to 'open up' to stop them speaking at all. Such behaviour tends to be lead by unstable, dangerous mental ill dictators do they not, but in a world where there are too many voices to be heard and none of them agreeing and all of them angry, what should any government do to prevent things becoming so volatile as to lead to violence?

Luckily most nations in the 21st century favour a more helpful and inclusive approach as they are aware that things tend to work better when they are done by mutual agreement and consent.

Governments throughout the world need constant reminders of what needs to be fixed and fortunately that is where freedom of speech does really help. It shouldn't matter how something is expressed but it does because by taking into account the level of anger and bitterness we can begin to understand the motivation behind what is being said. A person who is not bitter nor resentful but merely passionate expresses themselves quite differently from those who mean no good. Therefore in democratic nations at least, if you are paranoid about officials, so long as you mean no harm you should worry little about what you express with regard to them. They may well put you in hospital to help you not to worry so much and to prevent you from harming yourself or others but that's about all they'll do against your will. Their objective is the same as yours, for all to be well in the world which includes you. Remember it is not only officials you might be upsetting, it's your loved ones too simply through not knowing enough, not understanding enough and not letting you head have a chance against your emotions and fears.

It's not just governments that need reminders, it is actually experts in every field for when we are sufficiently proficient in any profession we begin to lose objectivity and it is actually novices and outsiders that help keep boffins on track. Overall we do it rather well too. Just as a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so too can too much knowledge prove just as lethal, but both are equally and mutually helpful toward making progress in all things. Don't forget that those that rule us also have a duty of care and in times of national crisis our governments often need not only to remind us of our humanitarian principles but get us to take some nasty medicine to get us well or make us strong enough to cope with a crisis - rather like mental health teams do in a way.

Just as historically mental health treatments have needed improving (and still do), so too do governments. These are constants that will never change because, like all species we are always changing. We change our ideals, our goals, our aspirations, our dreams and most of all we are forever increasing our demands on what we will accept as... 'fair and reasonable'. We are right to do so as without those motivational elements in our psychologies we cannot evolve, nor can we learn from mistakes. We often learn best from our struggles, our pain, suffering and most of all from our losses the question is, can we learn to learn just as much from our successes to safeguard against the possibilities of dangers created by ourselves?

If you are stumped as to how to combat extremes then here are a few tips.

1. Switch off from thinking or feeling anything by concentrating on getting sleep, exercise and good food inside you.

2. Vary your chosen coping strategies by adding new ones and take control of yourself to do many things little but often as life becomes far more relaxed and fun that way which leads you to being happier and the world becoming more interesting to you.

Everything in moderation except...

The greatest thinkers and doers of all history ensured they had switch off time so that their brains were as much as possible in tip top condition the majority of the time. To be well and happy everything needs to be "in moderation" as one of our Mindwalking mental health professionals pointed out. He then added "including moderation itself". This then threw all of us and resulted in the title of this blog post.

We do sometimes need extremes to let out our pain in the right circles with the right people at the right time. Posting such things on the Internet to strangers can just as easily make matters worse as better which is why it is wiser to campaign for things once we've let go of all those confusing and conflicting emotions. Leave it to your friends to campaign for you to give yourself the break you need to work through just that.

We also need extremes  to share our joys and that is where each and everyone of us can help improve our health instantly. Which would you prefer - to live a life devoted to looking at all the pain and suffering in the world or to live a life that brings comfort, fun and joy to yourself and to others despite all the pain and suffering? Such activities can be as infectious as absorbing, as interesting as fear, terror, anxiety, stress and cruelty.

If we each did managed to get a better balance between helping others while looking after ourselves it would not eradicate suffering but it would help so many more people recover from it to live a happier life of quality - a life worth living. It would also help prevent the severity of suffering and the risk of burnt out medical and emergency service staff from the sheer volume of people in need of help. In effect we should each try to aim to become Unipolar with the difference of being dedicated to seeking solutions instead of problems and joys instead of sorrows. The result of that would be that we'd all be happier and the only criticism others could launch at us would be that we are naive - which we are at exactly the same time as we are the precise opposite.

The answer to the paradoxes of paradoxes is simply to recognise which response in appropriate for each event we encounter and act on it. It is impossible as none of us can know everything to do so, but perhaps then the answer is to just give each other and ourselves a little be more patience, consideration as well as support to work through these things?

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Muddling Myths and Diagnosis Dilemmas

There are many forms of treatment for the mentally ill now and a few do not involve medication at all; they require changes to lifestyle and how we approach life. However, it is still more common to need medication of some kind to help start this process off at the very least.

If you think in terms of mental health medication as being in two distinct categories it should help everyone be less afraid of them. There are medications used in an emergency situation, just as you might have if you are whizzed into an Accident and Emergency Department following a life threatening accident or ailment; and there are those used to prevent emergencies and help us to recover from dire events and ailments in our lives.

There is a problem though and that is diagnosis. All too often people who are not qualified at all to diagnose try to do so. Even among mental health care professionals the temptation to say that this person is presenting this symptom therefore they are suffering from this condition is huge and nigh on irresistible. To describe the symptoms to a doctor is the right thing to do, but to tell a doctor in any field of medicine that a patient is suffering from a condition you happen to be familiar with could result in that patient's death. You might think that the more experienced a member of staff is the less this would happen but during our research we have found that sadly archaic attitudes have still not left us even among medical staff.

The most common complaint of all from the mentally ill is that their thoughts and feelings have not be correctly relayed to their psychiatrist at all, and there are even examples of test results not reaching them either. This is alarming in the extreme as how can any doctor in any field of medicine be expected to diagnose and prescribe accurately if they do not have the correct information to do so? The effect on their patients is one of anger, frustration and a lack of faith and trust not only that they will be diagnosed correctly, but that they can ever be cured. There is fear that if they show such feelings they will be subjected to even more medication that is unwarranted too.

Luckily there are many diary entry and mood chart devices to help avert this happening and in the UK at least there are organisations like Mind, Rethink, Saneline and PALS for patients to find an advocate if things do go wrong. There is also the Care Quality Commission and (albeit only a handful) solicitors who specialise in representing the mentally ill. Such processes add to stress levels rather than alleviate them and things can be further complicated when the condition the patient suffers from is some form of paranoia or delusion.Additionally cases of misdiagnosis for the mentally ill can be long standing if their conditions are never reviewed. What was modern medicine 50 years ago is not the latest thing now. Shockingly due to time constraints and particularly since the recent 'austerity drive' it is all too easy for a patient seeing a new psychiatrist being assumed to suffer from the same condition as their last episode. With physical ailments we seldom have this happen unless it is for conditions such as cancer, but even then no one assumes the cancer to be in the same place, the same type or to be affecting the patient in necessarily the same way.

Patients are seldom aware of any discussion over whether their brains are misfiring due to predominantly genetic, physiological or environmental conditions, but in all cases patients can learn to manage their own health if supported sufficiently well. It will still mean a life-time in care in some cases, but for most it could well lead to a fully functioning life.

This is where we at Mindwalking firmly believe mental health care professionals need to change. A broken arm sustained as child does not lead to everyone assuming the arm is still broken once deemed healed, but a mental health condition on your files will remain uppermost on your files even if you need no medication at all. This leads to many a human resource professional and manager treating the mentally ill unfairly, denying them work in the first place or treating them as fantasists if they report problems or in any way become emotional.

Different situations cause different illnesses and given that mental health covers such a vast spectrum of maladies it seems rather odd that this attitude has not changed yet. The mentally ill have enough to contend with regarding strangers, colleagues at work, friends and family trying to diagnose them with no training whatsoever without mental health teams themselves being lazy or assuming goodness knows what. There are dreadful cases of deaths being caused because such professionals missed signs of brain tumours, brain injury, autism and many other easily identifiable conditions were it not for the assumption that they already knew what the condition was before they started and therefore the patient never got referred for the appropriate tests or to the appropriate specialist.

It can seem at times like a miracle that patients get diagnosed and prescribed correctly at all but as the decades roll by more and more mentally ill patients thankfully are. The reasons behind this are:

1. Patients are speaking out more for themselves
2. They have advocates to protect them and their rights
3. There is greater awareness of all manner of symptoms and conditions
4. Psychiatrists confer more and more with psychologists
5. Psychiatrists and neurologists are learning more about how the human brain functions
6. Medications are becoming more refined to have just the right effect on precisely the right bit of the brain
7. Medications are beginning to become less addictive and with fewer side effects
8. Many more patients than ever before are able to cope with lower doses because of complementary therapies which leads to greater success in diagnosis for others
9. Psychologists and mental health care staff are becoming more aware of the traumatic effect treatment regimes themselves can have on the mentally ill
10. Awareness of what is happening in these illnesses from those directly involved with mental illness is ever increasing.

Sadly we are still waiting for the rest of the human race to catch up with all of this. It takes years of some of the toughest and most intense training imaginable to become a psychiatrist, psychologist or neurologists so why does everyone else think they could possibly know more or better than they do? The answer lies in that part of our brain that houses our nagging doubts. It's the 'what if' pest again (see previous post last month). Yes, medical teams can and sometimes do miss things which is why it is always important to keep talking to them. If you don't tell a GP that you vomit morning, noon and night and go into see them complaining that your neck hurts, what are they likely to look at, your neck or your digestive system? Mental health conditions are notoriously difficult to diagnose precisely because the same symptoms can be present in very different health problems - hence why a person in a rage might be a victim of crime, a perpetrator of crime, bereaved, have learning difficulties, a brain tumour or a long-term mental health condition.

Please, do yourselves and mental health teams a favour (especially the psychiatrists and psychologists) assume nothing, keep sharing your symptoms and take their advice just as you would for any other form of malady.

It remains an absolute truth that to help both prevent any illness as well as aid any recovery fresh food, exercise, sleep, relaxation and laughter will always pay dividends in the end but the greatest comfort of all for the mentally ill are people who believe them to be able to be well, do things and to share their experiences with not least what they can and do accomplish so regularly and so bravely.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The what if challenge

The role of a psychiatrist is midway between the remit of neurologists and psychologists which are specialist areas in their own right. A neurologist looks as the genetics, physiology and how the brain actually functions in the body; whereas psychologists concentrate more on what that leads to in terms of behaviour. 

Given the human brain has over 86 billion connecting points that we know of so far, it is not surprising that it's taking a while to fathom how a brain should be functioning as the number of possible ways it could misfire, be mis-wired or be malformed it quite staggering. We should count ourselves lucky that it can function at all. Recently scientific research has revealed that the fats in our bodies produce hormones to add to the complexity of organs all contributing toward our well being or ill health. 

Psychiatrists are not the only ones to be playing piggy in the middle while neurologists try to fathom what it is that makes a person mentally well as opposed to ill - general practitioner are there too - so are we. Each and everyone of us, healthy or ill is on the receiving end of the results of all medical discoveries. We play an important part in informing medical teams about what we are experiencing even though we are hindered in that task by not using their terminology to explain things very efficiently. Even among the medical profession the same term gets interpreted in a myriad of different ways while all agree on the overall concept behind each label or phrase. 

It soon becomes apparent that medical care can and often is a very hit and miss, trial and error way affair. As patients, as human beings this is quite alarming to realise until we remember that actually life is and has always been like that and that our best option is always to go with what we know to be safest and which we know to work just as a starting point. It is far better to go with the best we know rather than to rubbish all we know and be left with nothing surely? It is better yet to build on what we know to be true which we largely do.

Here though, as many a mentally ill person can testify, lies a problem. It's the "What if" mindset that is both useful and dangerous to all.

What if previous theories are wrong? What if current forms or treatment are wrong? What if what seems to work now will be proven to cause us problems in the future?

'What if' can lead us into not trusting in anything or anyone including ourselves and our own judgement. What if includes scenarios such as "what if I am imagining the whole of my existence and what if I am an imaginary character myself?" You see the trouble it can lead to? As human beings we often get scared and confused by using 'what if' the wrong way. This results in more and more unhappy thoughts piling up on top of each other to multiply and magnify our confusion and distress - it doesn't help to use 'what if' for things that we cannot change or to speculate on how bad things could get if we don't also use 'what if' to help us.

In many forms of talking therapy this constitutes a large portion of the work undertaken. In effect, it's aim is not to give answers but to enable us to find the means by which we can find a sense of balance between all the possible outcomes there can be. Outcomes are merely the events of our lives which are made up in equal measure from the actions of others and ourselves as well as our own genetics and physiology. No outcome need be a permanent 'answer' or 'conclusion' and it is far better that it never is for something better might emerge from a disastrous situation or something truly marvellous could happen from an already stable  and nice situation.

When we dwell on analysing past events which we cannot alter we can often find ourselves missing out on the present. While it is helpful to find out what went wrong and why, it is less than helpful to dwell on such things if we learn nothing from them. 

Many a mentally ill patient finds it difficult to let go of past events when they have been traumatised by them, but sometimes some patients can be destined to be traumatised by events simply because their brains are made that way or fire off the wrong signals to produce the same effect. It becomes apparent why it is so important for neurologists, psychologists and psychiatrists to be as aware of the differences between the causes of illness as possible. While on a quest for causes though it can happen that these highly knowledgeable medical professionals can end up finding only what they expect to find or are looking for in the first place missing out on other causes which can range from social factors to simple vitamin deficiencies. 

The only way for mental health care to avoid that pitfall is for all those disciplines to always communicate and for each to challenge each other with 'what if' the cause is not just this but also a smidge of this and a dollop of that. That challenge sadly is not often seen as a call for objectivity when it comes to a mentally ill patient voicing a doubt or concern. More commonly it is seen as symptomatic of illness and a resistance to trusting their medical team. 

A good phrase for patients to use when this happens is "Excuse me for wanting you to get to root of my illness so you can get the treatment right." It must always be remembered that the mentally ill while lacking in objectivity do have an abundance of insight as a consequence of their experiences both in and outside of medical treatment. They therefore are the most important source of information to discern what the problem is and where the root causes might be. They have a voice and it is after all them who have to bear the consequences of errors in judgement from all they encounter. Nothing is of greater concern to any patient (be they mentally ill or not) than whether or not they can be well, yet how often is a focus placed on what they view as well? How often is it that any mentally ill person is encouraged to believe that they can be well? If we are brainwashed into believing ourselves incapable of improvement, what is the likely outcome in any situation?

To put it another way, if a person is never going to be responded to as if wellness is a possibility the probability is that individual will always be ill because no one ever acknowledges how much of them is well. Building upon the aspects of ourselves that are functioning healthily is vital to aid recovery from any form of illness or disease. Regrettably when it comes to mental health care, few in the field advocate let alone put this into practice. The reason is because mental health professionals are paid to concentrate on the bit that needs fixing but to the mentally ill it often comes across to them as an archaic institutional attitude that sucks is insulting and worst still, causes them more damage. The fact that most mental health teams mean no harm in some respects only serves to add to the frustrations and distress of those they care for. 

A future for what if

What if there was a greater understanding of what it is like to be on the receiving end of all these decisions about a person's mental health? What if neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs and the patients themselves discussed and agreed upon the things that caused their illness. What if every patient was assessed by a neurologists, psychiatrist, psychology and a GP before a joint diagnosis was made... wouldn't that lead to possibilities of quicker and ever less intrusive treatments in the future? 

Here at Mindwalking we are conscious that although making steady progress, treatment and diagnosis when it comes to mental health still lacks much of what is already taken for granted in the rest of general medicine. In the future we hope diagnosing will become a joint effort to pull treatment even further away from the risk of mere opinion for such decisions. It does not help patients of any kind to be confronted with differing opinions as to what ails them - it leads to confusion and distress. Luckily most in the mental health care profession do consult and confer to agree, make sure this happens if you are ever ill.  

'What if' offers a world of possibilities but it is only really useful when it is used to aid understanding rather than generate fear and prejudice and a failure to learn or act responsibly. 

We hope you use it wisely.