Community: The Social

Mental health chat with Frances McCann

Frances McCann is a mental health advisor at 42nd Street. She dropped by to answer some of your questions on self-harm, anger and bipolarity.

Frances: Hello everyone, do ask lots of questions, I'm here for an hour.

Girl: I'm very close to someone who used to self-harm a lot in the past.  Recently they did so again after a few years of not doing it and I was very concerned for them, but they just brushed it off as nothing. Is this symptomatic of anything more than just a stressful time?

Frances: Hi Girl, thanks for your question. It's good to hear that you care about your friend and that you are trying to understand self-harm. It sounds like perhaps she's just had a really stressful time and her usual ways of coping and not self-harming just weren't available to her at that point.

But, a one-off return to self-harming doesn't mean that a person is going to keep self-harming again when they're stressed or worried.  Does that make sense?

Girl: It does, thank you.

CoolMe: You've been doing your job for so long. What made you start off down this career route?

Frances: Hi CoolMe, that's an interesting question. I found that I like to help people and started to do some befriending. I soon realised that people like to talk when they're stressed and have problems. It can help people to sort their heads out. Then I decided that to help people properly I needed some proper training and so I trained as a counsellor.

CoolMe: What puzzles me is why my friends are worried about their GCSE results, and I'm all laid back and relaxed.

Frances: Hi again, I'd forgotten it was results time for GCSEs. It can be stressful for some people, but perhaps for yourself you feel you did as well as you could and that you're the sort of person who feels you can deal with the outcome whatever it is and feel positive about the results you will get.  Each person deals with the stress of waiting for something in a different way.

CoolMe: Yeah I suppose so, when I was sitting my GCSEs I wasn't that worried about them. There was this one exam where I crapped myself along with my friends because we knew we weren't going to pass it!

emotionsickness:  How can I stop getting so angry? Some things make me really freak out, like losing something, or a small row can turn into a massive one. I get so angry I punch and throw things. How can I control this?

Frances: Hi there. Managing anger and being angry can be a challenge for lots of people. I believe that anger is just one of the many emotions that we have, but like you said sometimes the way we deal with it can be really over the top.  So, what I suggest people do is to notice when the anger is beginning to build up. Think about what you feel like, like hot in your head or lots of tension in your body and before you do anything try and count to ten and breathe and then decide what to do. Perhaps you've tried things like this before?

emotionsickness:  What if something is stressing you out and counting to ten doesn't work? What do I do if I get angry because I can't do something, or find something and counting to ten doesn't relieve the anger and frustration?

Frances: If something is stressing you out and counting to ten doesn't work it really depends on the situation. If you can walk away and spend a bit of time getting rid of that energy like thumping something soft or going for a run, that can help you get rid of immediate angry energy.  But, I would also suggest that if you're getting a lot of anger and frustration about things going on in your life then it might be useful to talk to someone about these things to try and find ways of dealing differently with the people or situations that are making you angry.

CoolMe: I know stress balls work for some people.

emotionsickness: I think thumping something would be good, as long as it isn't breakable. I worry that will fuel the anger.

Frances: The CALM website has lots of information and so does Mind.

Girl: Do you have any advice for people who feel that they can't relax and wind down? I find it really hard to unwind and sometimes just end up screaming in tears because I feel like I can't cope and don't know what to do.

Frances: Hi again Girl, it sounds like you get really stressed in your life sometimes and it all bottles up inside of you. With winding down and de-stressing, maybe it might help to do some relaxation. Try a little bit each day to avoid the tension building up until you feel like you're going to break and are desperate to unwind. So, perhaps a relaxation tape, even 10 minutes per day might help, or going swimming once or twice a week.

"With bipolarity medication is certainly not compulsory and many people prefer to try some self-management before using medication."

Emma: This year has been hard and something which happened at the beginning of the year made me really down and depressed. I felt guilty about a decision I made and never really got over it. I started cutting myself a bit and it got worse and I would spend the night crying. Then the same thing happened and I did cope with it better. As it comes up to a significant time linked with the beginning of the year I'm feeling like the pits. I have someone who I talk to online and they offer kind words but I can't accept them and I get so angry and reject their help. I know I need help but I feel too scared and ashamed.

Frances: Hi Emma, it sounds like you've been through a really difficult year and like you said have had some difficult decisions to make and perhaps they were lonely times too. But, it also sounds like this has been a year when you've had a lot of courage and faced a lot of sadness and tried to do something different and more positive when it came to round to making a similar decision a second time. I'm glad that you've found someone online who you can talk to and that they are accepting and understanding about you. They too must see your courage and how you've tried to take care of yourself. Don't give up. It can take a whole year to recover and put hard times into the past. Find positive things as well as sadness that come from those times.

Emma: I don't take care of myself. I can't take any more of the pain, the hurt right inside, right in my heart. It aches.

Frances: Sometimes when we feel really confused about ourselves and lose our confidence and self-esteem it can be hard to look after ourselves and care about ourselves.  But, you sound like there is part of you that wants to turn things around.

emotionsickness: I don't know if it will help, but I used to ache with sadness too.  You will get better, something in you will survive and you will get past it and be able to look back and not feel the pain.

Frances:  Even though you're feeling crap and rubbish, just for getting through a hard, hard year, you deserve a little pampering. Some of the things on TheSite.org's article about looking after yourself could be really good for you to try. I hope you start to feel better soon.

Thunderstruck:  Hi guys.

Frances: Hi thunderstruck.

Thunderstruck: I actually have a little question regarding bi-polarity.

Frances: Go ahead.

Thunderstruck:  A very dear friend of mine suffers from it. Certain things will set him off, either sending him down or bringing him up and often the things that set him one way or another are banal and have no relevance. Can these be controlled or is it totally random?  Though shopping does seem to cheer him up.

Frances: With a condition like this, it can really appear to be quite random what can trigger the fluctuations in mood or mental state. Obviously it's your friend's choice if he chooses to use medication as prescribed by a doctor, but it can also be useful for somebody with this condition to learn about their symptoms and learn how to try and take some control.

If possible some professional advice should be sought from a psychologist because Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is really useful for helping with this condition.

Thunderstruck: He's not on any medication.

Frances: With this condition medication is certainly not compulsory and many people prefer to try some self management before using medication.

Thunderstruck: is it possible to disassociate the triggers once you've narrowed down certain things that can set you off?

Frances: I'm not sure about disassociate. I think that it's more about having a different response to the triggers that is less extreme

Thunderstruck: OK, that's really helpful, thanks.

Frances: No problem. Thanks for coming and for your questions, it's been good chatting with you all.

 

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