Wednesday 17 June 2015

A meeting of (anxious) minds

- Olivia Niblock

At the time of writing this, I’m laying awkwardly on the couch, keeping my leg elevated after I fell down the stairs at Kentish Town Station. Needless to say it wasn’t a great experience, but what surprised me most was the number of people who were more than willing to help. Milliseconds after I fell to the ground, a man and a woman came to my aid and hoisted me up to help me on my train home. I plonked myself on a seat and assessed the damage. Whilst assessing said damage, my nose started bleeding all over my hand and without a question; two guys started scrabbling around in their bags to find me a tissue to stop the bleeding.

“It’s not your day today, is it, love?” 

But do you know what – I’m starting to think it was my day. People I’d never met in my life were watching my every move, asking if I needed any help, offering to help me off at my station. It made me realise that people, Londoners especially, are underappreciated for their kindness. This is why one of my favourite bits in the Metro – come on now, we all read it – is the Good Deed Feed. It reminds me that people are willing to help if they see that you are in need. Sometimes it isn’t obvious when a person needs help, but when it’s made crystal clear – or if you ask for help – people will willingly give it. 

One of my favourite sayings is “the first to help you up are the ones who know how it feels to fall down”. Which brings us on to how I met another blogger in America, @illysez. She blogs about her GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and depression in a bid to help others know that they’re not alone and to get help with their problems. I came across it because I myself suffer from GAD: although I like to point out, I see it as a diagnosis, not as who I am as a person. It soon became clear that we both has patterns of avoidance in certain situations and our worries are not usually logical or rational. Although telling that to someone when they’re in the middle of an anxiety attack is not helpful – because we are well aware that our worries and fears are not rational. Having a fear of spiders is largely irrational, and yet an estimated 30% ofpeople in a large US study identified as being aracnophobic. It’s just one of those things. 

I decided to reach out to her to delve into her blogging and what she thought of the mHealth sector, including Playlab’s game Flowy. And so the interviewing began.

I find your blog very helpful and relatable for people who suffer with GAD. I was wondering what inspired you to start writing your blog?

“I am a Rabbi’s wife and I noticed that others in my congregation seemed to have anxiety issues. When I could not go a function or service, my husband had to say that I ‘was not feeling well’. At some point I felt it was important to ‘come out’ so-to-speak to my synagogue and our small hamlet of about 15,000 people via social media. I decided I wanted to write a blog to help others who have GAD or depression and to help those that have family members with these issues to better understand them. I want to help de-stigmatize the issue overall. So, I started blogging.”

I was wondering about your opinion on the mHealth sector – do you believe that technology in health is useful for patients?

“I absolutely believe in the mHealth sector!! I used free online CBT therapy and used a paid computer-based biofeedback breathing program called ‘Healing Rhythms’ to help me. As new technology came out that could help me, I have embraced it. I use, or have used, a wide variety of ‘tools’ from talking therapy, to Tai Chi, to CBT, to breathing therapy, to guided imagery relaxation, to supplements such as Omega 3’s and Vitamin D. I believe in a very multidimensional approach to GAD (and depression for that matter).

There’s a new game out called Flowy by Playlab. Have you tried the game, if so, what did you think of it?

“I downloaded Flowy and tried it. I like the idea of a breathing program right on my phone for times where I am somewhere where I am able to use the phone, but not able to take medication or be in a trult calm space of my own. I find the breathing circle for breathing in and holding the circle for breathing out takes some time to fully get – sometimes I was doing the breathing perfectly but not touching the screen, so waking Aegir up took a bit of time . But I do like that Flowy is very encouraging no matter what you do or what your results are.”

It was a real pleasure talking to @illysez and it was really interesting to find out her opinions on shifting stigma, treatments for anxiety and her opinions on mHealth and Flowy. Needless to say, the team are trying to emulate @illysez’s vision in helping those who need help – whether or not it is crystal clear to others yet.

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