Alternative Therapies


Many years ago when I was ill for the first and second time, I knew little about strategies for regaining my sense of well-being. I was only offered tablets but, while in hospital, I did go to relaxation sessions. However, there was nothing more on offer. This was in 1989 and the early 1990s.

How much has changed now. Mental Health is on the agenda and discussed openly. Only this weekend, a Times Journalist wrote in the Times Magazine about his descent into and recovery from depression. Sports personalities also discuss their own predisposition to this debilitating condition. We are often surprised as we have only seen them as successful sportsmen.

However, stress and over activity can tip successful people away from being at the top of their game and they can find this difficult to cope with.

Over recent years I have used yoga and, more recently, Mindfulness, to bring myself back to some sense of normality. I have also found a therapist who is trained in several techniques. I have had Indian Head Massage, full massages and facial massage. The latter is wonderful when anxiety is at its worst and I wake up to puffy eyes.

But the most recent therapy I find beneficial has been Reflexology. This, I found more relaxing than a body massage. After one session about two years ago I walked home completely disconnected with the world around me, save for a wide smile on my face. The feeling of well-being was immense. I stopped at the cash point, inserted my card, requested the cash and took my card. I walked away without the money only to realise half way down the street but when I ran back it had gone. Luckily my bank was able to resolve the problem.

A few years ago I visited a Reiki therapist and found it helpful. The therapist then moved away. My love of reflexology over the last few years has caused me to forget that experience but when I discussed my recent acute anxiety with my therapist she suggested that I try Reiki again and, at the end of my reflexology session, she gave me five to ten minutes of the technique.

We have decided that I will have 50/50 Reflexology and Reiki for the next few sessions. I try to visit her once every three to four weeks but during a bad phase I will go more often. I am not rich but I have learnt how to economise in other areas of my life to enable me to afford these treatments. They are the gold dust.

Reiki is apparently particularly beneficial in dealing with anxiety.

I will be writing about my Reiki treatments on this blog so watch this space.




I have written before about how mental health provision has changed over the last twenty years or more.

I have been reminded of this recently when speaking to staff on a relative’s ward. The patient has what they call ‘a late start’ in the mornings but they offer to get her some breakfast when she appears from her room. If she does not appear they go to see her and ask if she would like a drink or some breakfast.

How different to my experiences in the 1990s. Then we would be called at 7.30 to go for breakfast and if our drugs left us dozy and still sleeping, the next call would be sharply delivered. You did not choose not to go to breakfast but lined up at the locked door and, once open, you filed down to the dining room. You were not given a choice and this applied to all activities and meals.

At 9.30 everyone save for the new admissions was sent for ‘exercises’ regardless of whether they felt like it and art groups and T groups, where a facilitator encourages patients to share feelings were compulsory. Also mandatory were relaxation sessions and yoga.

While I like the new patient-centred approach, I am thankful that, on my hospital stay in 1996 under the old regime, I was introduced to yoga, something I continued after discharge. Indeed, ever since that first experience, I have enrolled in classes on an annual basis. The weekly class, with some practice at home in between, became a life saver for me. The calmness of the mind and the feeling of well-being after stretching and holding poses changed me from a stressed and anxious individual into a rational person with a range of coping strategies. When faced with a new or stressful situation, the yogic breathing brought a sense of calm.

If you haven’t tried yoga and cannot afford a class, get a book from the local library and try some of the exercises and the instructions for clearing the mind. It is the debris in the mind that hangs about that yoga can deal with.

The debris and clutter that builds up can bring on anxiety and depression if it is not cleared away in the same way as you clean and clear up your house. See yoga as the hoover for the mind and you will soon reap the benefits.

Go on, you can do it. Give it a try.


Improving life

I have been taking an interest in an American website I found it via a link on Facebook or on another bi-polar blog. These blogs, far from being morbid and self-indulgent, are positive, uplifting and share much useful advice. A psychcentral blogger, Margarita Tartakovsky has written several articles. One of these is Ten Things to Improve Life and these are my interpretations. Her first is write a better story for your day. I say this can be on paper or in your head. I make a list of things to do each day such as exercises, yoga, walks and playing my piano. Reflecting on the positive aspects of a day is also a good idea so writing a diary – something I wish I had done throughout my life – where you log all the good things that happened – can make you feel better.

A more difficult item on her list is Identify what is keeping you stuck. This can be negative thinking or perhaps even another person. Low self esteem can prevent us doing what we need to do. I am stuck at present in ‘Writers’ Block’ although those reading this might think this is not the case. I have a novel that needs a ‘middle’ and lots of re-working and my view is that it is ‘in a mess’. When I looked at it recently I reckoned it was a load of rubbish. When my mood lifts, I may see that it is not so bad. Making myself write up my ideas from Margarita’s blog is releasing something.

Easier is go to bed earlier. I have been doing this for some time now and I do feel better when I am in bed between 10.30 and 11 especially if it means I have time to READ.

Also easier is participate in physical activity which you enjoy. I like walking and yoga so I have built this up in the last two or three weeks and it has made a difference to my mood. I hope to start swimming again in a nearby pool but the weather has been so wet, cold and miserable. This is a form of ‘being stuck’. If I could force myself to go I would benefit.

More difficult is to focus on ‘right now’ and be grounded in the present. I know people on Mindfulness courses. Mindfulness has been found to help with depression and negative thinking. Staying in the moment, without looking back or worrying about the future, really does help the mind to stay positive. I find that when I am writing I am purely in the moment which is, I am sure, why writing has been found to be so therapeutic.

Physical Action is another one of the Ten Things. Often anxiety and depression can make us ‘freeze’ and fail to do the very things that will make us feel better. Being pre-occupied prevents us from pushing on with pleasurable activities, leaves us confused and unable to make decisions which then leads us to feel angry with ourselves. ‘Just do something’ even if it is only a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle. Along with this improvement, however, we must ensure we set realistic and attainable goals. For example, don’t struggle with the Telegraph crossword if a concise one in another paper brings more success.

The seventh item was to reframe a situation in a more positive light. Margarita quotes the well-known saying ‘when life throws lemons, make lemonade’. When I am struck with a low period I try to tell myself it is nature’s way of making me rest and accept it instead of fighting it. I take my breakfast back to bed and have my laptop and a book at the ready. I reframe ‘not socialising’ as ‘my need for solitude’. Of course, it doesn’t work all the time but it is worth a try. However, it is a fact that over-stimulation is not good for those with bi-polar so the lows are often nature’s way of reducing stimulation. On a more basic level, if someone shows they do not want to be friendly, tell yourself that you are deciding you don’t want to be friendly with that person. When you suffer with Bi-Polar it is important to choose your friends and avoid those who cause aggravation. Decisions also need to be yours and yours alone.

Number eight on Margarita’s list is be grateful.  This, according to her, attracts positivity, opportunity and success. Writing down a list of ‘blessings’ has worked for me in the past. So often when we are depressed we forget what is good in our lives.

For control freaks, the next on the list is let go of what you can’t control. Sometimes we can’t see what it is that is holding us back or depressing us. Identifying what we can change and what we cannot change is key to combating depression. We might not be able to change a situation but we CAN change our attitude to it. Sometimes we cannot control something but we can manage it. This is true of Bi-Polar Disorder. We can’t control this as, even with medication, the brain will sometimes do it worst, but we can watch for Early Warning Signs (EWS) and be aware of triggers that either bring us down or send us into over-exuberance. Then we can take appropriate action. If we know we have ‘tried’ then we will not beat ourselves up about it.

Finally there is create an intention. After reading this, I decided to have some things on my TO DO list that could be prefaced by ‘I will ….’  However, somewhere we have to remember our realistic and attainable goals. Don’t say ‘I will …..’ if it is something that would be hard to achieve, expensive or detrimental to your well-being.

Good luck with the Ten Things. Visit Margarita’s articles on and let me know how you do.