Oh God, My Anxiety’s Back!

Hey readers,

I just saw this piece on a really fab website/blog created it seems to people who are getting out there and doing it for themselves  -kinda like us with our drug thing, they push onward and enlighten others around mental health issues. Many of us in the drug using world are intimate friends with ‘the shrink’, and many of us have suffered from being pushed backwards and forwards from the drug clinic to the psych ward and back again…‘No! You just use too many drugs. Stop them and then we can talk!’…Actually, Ill just piss off now then instead of stroking your ego or being mummified under your useless labels…

Their fabulous sites link…http://slamtwigops.wordpress.com/category/resources/.

follow pic to a terrific blog where this artwork lives as does an anxious person who can help us laugh at ourselves a bit more...

follow pic to a terrific blog where this artwork lives as does an anxious person who can help us laugh at ourselves a bit more….

In any case, if one hasn’t got a mental health thing going on that is truly making your using life difficult, then you will still understand the dreaded anxiety and panic you can get used to feeling when our life has taken a turn for the worse. So much of the time anxiety bubbles just under the surface creating obstacles for us and preventing us from doing something -it can really be crippling and often we don’t even really know it is there. We think it is just us being crap. Its the drugs. Im procrastinating again….Anxiety appears to us in so many forms, I think it is worth having a wee read of this just to see if it feels like it could be helpful. Just the mere fact of beginning to ‘understand’ what is happening to us, is a huge weight lifted of our shoulders. If we understand how our mind structures itself, we can actually liberate ourselves by re-wiring a bit here and there! Its what therapy is basically. We can help ourselves as well you know!


How to Train Your Brain to Alleviate Anxiety

Our thoughts affect our brains. More specifically, “… what you pay attention to, what you think and feel and want, and how you work with your reactions to things sculpt your brain in multiple ways,” according to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D, in his newest book Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. In other words, how you use your mind can change your brain.

According to Canadian scientist Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” If your thoughts focus on worrying and self-criticism, you’ll develop neural structures of anxiety and a negative sense of self, says Hanson.

For instance, individuals who are constantly stressed (such as acute or traumatic stress) release cortisol, which in another article Hanson says eats away at the memory-focused hippocampus. People with a history of stress have lost up to 25 percent of the volume of their hippocampus and have more difficulty forming new memories.

The opposite also is true. Engaging in relaxing activities regularly can wire your brain for calm. Research has shown that people who routinely relax have “improved expression of genes that calm down stress reactions, making them more resilient,” Hanson writes.

Also, over time, people who engage in mindfulness meditation develop thicker layers of neurons in the attention-focused parts of the prefrontal cortex and in the insula, an area that’s triggered when we tune into our feelings and bodies.

Other research has shown that being mindful boosts activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which suppresses negative emotions, and minimizes the activation of the amygdala, which Hanson refers to as the “alarm bell of the brain.”

Hanson’s book gives readers a variety of exercises to cultivate calm and self-confidence and to enjoy life. Here are three anxiety-alleviating practices to try.

1. “Notice you’re all right right now.” For many of us sitting still is a joke — as in, it’s impossible. According to Hanson, “To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved an ongoing internal trickle of unease. This little whisper of worry keeps you scanning your inner and outer world for signs of trouble.”

Being on high alert is adaptive. It’s meant to protect us. But this isn’t so helpful when we’re trying to soothe our stress and keep calm. Some of us — me included — even worry that if we relax for a few minutes, something bad will happen. (Of course, this isn’t true.)

Hanson encourages readers to focus on the present and to realize that right now in this moment, you’re probably OK. He says that focusing on the future forces us to worry and focusing on the past leads to regret. Whatever activity you’re engaged in, whether it’s driving, cooking dinner or replying to email, Hanson suggests saying, “I’m all right right now.”

Of course, there will be moments when you won’t be all right. In these times, Hanson suggests that after you ride out the storm, “… as soon as possible, notice that the core of your being is okay, like the quiet place fifty feet underwater, beneath a hurricane howling above the sea.”

2. “Feel safer.” “Evolution has given us an anxious brain,” Hanson writes. So, whether there’s a tiger in the bushes doesn’t matter, because staying away in both cases keeps us alive. But, again, this also keeps us hyper-focused on avoiding danger day to day. And depending on our temperaments and life experiences, we might be even more anxious.

Most people overestimate threats. This leads to excessive worrying, anxiety, stress-related aliments, less patience and generosity with others and a shorter fuse, according to Hanson.

Are you more guarded or anxious than you need to be? If so, Hanson suggests the following for feeling safer:

  • Think of how it feels to be with a person who cares about you and connect to those feelings and sensations.
  • Remember a time when you felt strong.
  • List some of the resources at your disposal to cope with life’s curveballs.
  • Take several long, deep breaths.
  • Become more in tune with what it feels like to feel safer. “Let those good feelings sink in, so you can remember them in your body and find your way back to them in the future.”

3. “Let go.” Letting go is hard. Even though clinging to clutter, regrets, resentment, unrealistic expectations or unfulfilling relationships is painful, we might be afraid that letting go makes us weak, shows we don’t care or lets someone off the hook. What holds you back in letting go?

Letting go is liberating. Hanson says that letting go might mean releasing pain or damaging thoughts or deeds or yielding instead of breaking. He offers a great analogy:

“When you let go, you’re like a supple and resilient willow tree that bends before the storm, still here in the morning — rather than a stiff oak that ends up broken and toppled over.”

Here are some of Hanson’s suggestions for letting go:

  • Be aware of how you let go naturally every day, whether it’s sending an email, taking out the trash, going from one thought or feeling to another or saying goodbye to a friend.
  • Let go of tension in your body. Take long and slow exhalations, and relax your shoulders, jaw and eyes.
  • Let go of things you don’t need or use.
  • Resolve to let go of a certain grudge or resentment. “This does not necessarily mean letting other people off the moral hook, just that you are letting yourself off the hotplate of staying upset about whatever happened,” Hanson writes. If you still feel hurt, he suggests recognizing your feelings, being kind to yourself and gently releasing them.
  • Let go of painful emotions. Hanson recommends several books on this topic: Focusing by Eugene Gendlin and What We May Beby Piero Ferrucci. In his book, Hanson summarizes his favorite methods: “relax your body;” “imagine that the feelings are flowing out of you like water’” express your feelings in a letter that you won’t send or vent aloud; talk to a good friend; and be open to positive feelings and let them replace the negative ones.

#RT via Bridget via http://psychcentral.com

Fight Back on Benefits

Here’s a bit more interesting info I’ve come across recently.

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It came from an interesting and very useful website, or blog rather, called Benefit Tales. It is bang up to date on all the recent benefit changes, especially those affecting disable people. I was initially drawn in by a headline that said

‘ATOS physiotherapists cannot give opinions on mental health assessments – official’.  Which is what I had been fuming about for some time, given that so many people I know with mental health problems have gone before the  medical assessment, only to be assessed on their physical status, while their psychological side was basically ignored or misunderstood. The assessors are ‘HealthCare Professionals but who are also ATOS trained and clearly have certain objectives to meet. They regularly are allowed to more or less override what your doctor says. Regarding the heading, the story goes as follows…

“The case involved a claimant, with mental health problems, who suffered from depression and bouts of uncontrollable rage. An Upper Tribunal Judge held that the opinion of a physiotherapist Healthcare Professional (HCP) was only useful for recording what the claimant said and did during the medical/assessment. Any other was useless as evidence because of their lack of expertise of mental health conditions.

The ruling affects all ESA appeals where the severity and effects of a disabled person’s mental health is at issue and expertise in this field is required to give an adequate opinion. It may also affect claimants with a wide range of physical health conditions.

In addition, there is no logical reason why the Upper Tribunals’ conclusion should not apply to appeals relating to the points findings of a disputed Personal Independence Payment (PIP) medical report by Atos or Capita.

Anyone considering an ESA appeal, who disputes the health professionals’ evidence, may wish to consider challenging the HCP expert status in relation to their disability.”

This was published a little while back on 26th July 2013 but you can view a full summary and a link to the decision at


And here was a few more helpful links if you are feeling harassed and overwhelmed by the reviews, appeals, claims etc. This is also a little section repeated from this site Benefit Tales, in reply to people looking for help.

“Your best bet may be to find a local disability activist group, who will probably have local people who are experienced at helping people through tribunals. Many will be suffering from mental illnesses themselves and will understand what you are going through. Your local CAB or trades council may be able to put you in touch. If your council has a welfare rights officer they may be able to help too.

You can also go to one of the various organisations online that give help and advice. Try any of these

I hope you already have someone to go to the tribunal with you. Theres some facebook pages; ‘Disability and Benefit Support – don’t go alone’ which has a national list of volunteers, some with legal experience, ready to help people through appeals and tribunals; ‘ATOS Miracles’ is a good place to post your story and get useful help and support from others in your situation; and a page called ‘Fightback’ which offers direct support form qualified benefit advisors, for a very small, voluntary fee – though they are rushed off their feet now.They can only attend tribunals within 100 miles of Birmingham, but can give advice by email or phone to anyone”.

One last interesting (depressing) Link for the ladies from the website:

Women biggest victims in coalition’s welfare blitz


Good luck readers, seems we are going to need it.

Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World


Meditation (Photo credit: atsukosmith)

This is an article by a friend who found he could make some really positive changes in his life, in his drug use, and his mental health, using a type of meditation called Vipassana. I’m very interested at the moment in how one can find ways to achieve a sense of balance, moderation and positivity in one’s life – especially when trying to deal with issues around controlling one’s drug use; – It seems society’s laws and regulations (namely prohibition) and our consumerist cultures, have conspired (amongst many other things) to ensure personal drug use gets very hard to manage at times and our mental health can be quite traumatised by what the world/life tends to throw at us, day in, day out.

Giving it all up altogether isn’t always a satisfactory answer, sometimes its about looking at our whole life, through our minds eye – the way we actually think about things – and ourselves. If we can start to find some peace of mind and positivity in there (inside) then we become better equipped to be able to deal with what is important, or necessary, rather than what we THINK is the problem. We all need to feel valued, purposeful and useful. I’m just wondering if maybe building some good foundations in our lives, especially within our mind, enables us to deal with the problems more effectively. And ok if that means giving up all substances, so be it, but sometimes that inner strength leads to finding, finally, moderation and control. Here is B’s article about his experience of using meditation as a tool to find his own inner balance. I really think there is something to be said about meditation and mindfulness. Any drug user worth their salt/substance knows there is way more in our brains/souls to be discovered and utilized! Take it away B!

Vipassana Meditation and Well Being

By B

It is said that most if not all people who attend meditation retreats have undergone
their fair share of suffering. This certainly applied to me when attending my first
Vipassana meditation course over the Christmas of 2008; I was looking for an end to
this suffering, having come to the realisation that the various recreational drugs I had
been using (and more often abusing) to appease it were in the long term making it
worse. These were pushing the problems back – just a temporary fix – my main
problems then probably having been anger, frustration and alienation from the world.
I had done a period of my life homeless and lost good friends, many gone too early
from poverty and drugs, and from my teenage years suffered mental illness (many
labels ranging from anxiety and depression to possible bipolar or schizophrenia).

My experience of prescribed drugs over all these years was that they had only ever done
more harm than good with their nasty side effects. Vipassana offered ‘a
straightforward, practical way to achieve real peace of mind and thus to lead a happy,
useful life’. As soon as I heard about it (originally from a youtube video, then further
researching it online) this was appealing. Translated, the word means ‘to see things as
they really are’. And it was free – with donations in money or service only accepted
on completion of a ten day course. (The courses all around the world run by

Does  it really work?

For me personally, practising Vipassana these years since then (sitting and serving
several ten day courses at the UK’s main centre Dhamma Dipa in Hereford during
this time) has vastly improved my mental health (better than anything else I have
tried), and whilst maintaining daily sittings at home, has maintained my peace of
mind. It has also helped sort out long term cannabis dependence (and an online poker
playing problem also) by showing that addiction to these or anything is craving to
physical sensations, not accepting the reality as it is. Something I have found in my
own experience is that when staying mindful and equanimous accepting the reality as
it is, the bad stuff passes away quicker for not lingering in aversion or clinging. This
is not to say that unfavourable things won’t still happen, but in seeing that all is
impermanent and ever changing, one learns to deal wisely with the ups and downs of
life, without drowning in the lows or getting overly-elated in the highs. The practice
does not change the sometimes crazy and erratic nature of life, but moulds our
relationship to it in such a way that we can stay connected to peace, love and
happiness no matter how rough the terrain may be.

To read the rest of B’s article, which will be kept under ‘Meditation’  in our A-Z of Health file, click here.

Here is a terrific 10 minute video about Vipassana (also on B’s page) which gives a good insight into how it works and why it can be so useful. Further Links on B’s page (link above).

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