In my last post I discussed the first time I was prescribed medication for depression. The seconded time I visited the doctor about this matter, it was anxiety that was the centre of the discussion, though for me the two are always interlinked.
I was 22 when I went to the doctor about feeling overwhelmed by my struggle to sleep and my constant worries about leaving the house for work. When I explained my sleeping patterns to the doctor and how long that had been part of my life, I discovered I’d been suffering the effects of anxiety for all of my adult life. It was my ‘normal’ though and I had never questioned it until it had started to affect my daily life.
The doctor said I had ‘high functioning anxiety’ and since that day I’ve always accepted that as true. Especially once I found some information on typical behaviours of people who suffer from this. Even now if I type high functioning anxiety into google I recognise myself in virtually any of the articles I click on. All these years on I can also see how unhealthy many of the behaviours associated with this are, and I feel a little bit sad that they just became a part of me. I find it hard to believe that it is possible for me to undo some of these behaviours. They feel far too deep routed for me to be able to untangle them from who I am without them.
Once again I was prescribed medication. Once again I felt guilty for this being my reality. My mum was still reeling from the fact I was someone who struggled with my mental well being. She was disappointed that to her mind this was the reason I’d left college and never achieved being a university graduate like she had hoped. It was thought that I’d be the first in our family to go, and my not doing that seemed to be a big regret for her.
I think what held me back in life though wasn’t the depression or the anxiety, it was not treating those things with the care they needed. I think many things would have been different for me if I’d followed through on that first prescription for antidepressants and if I’d completed the counselling sessions as suggested by my doctor.
This second experience of discussing my brain niggles involved my now ex-husband, who was my fiance at the time. He was baffled as to how I could be depressed or anxious. Did I not love him? Was our life not a good one? What had he done wrong? Again my mental state was about someone else.
I felt like an awful person for bringing this onto the people I loved, for hurting them because my stupid brain was a mess. I wanted so badly to just ‘feel normal’, yet no one seemed to see that for that to happen I needed the medication, even if only for a little while. I understand now, even if I didn’t then, that those feelings were and still are part of my anxiety.
I became embarrassed to leave my tablets anywhere, or to be seen taking them. They felt like an elephant in the room at all times. I hated having to explain why I was going to the doctor, or having to share even the smallest of side-effects with those around me. Which meant that I took the same route as before and I just stopped taking the tablets. It seemed to make everyone else happier that I didn’t them and no one ever seemed to notice that I was never quite 100% in terms of mental well being.
Even now as I’m writing this I’m asking myself ‘how bad could it really have been’. I know that for some people not taking that medication would have been extremely detrimental to their safety and could have had a much more severe effect on their life. That thinking though is why I decided to share. Your anxiety or depression doesn’t have to be as bad as someone else’s or as bad as it could possibly ever be for you to seek help and do what you need to do to feel better.
At any given point in life there is always going to be someone who has been through someone that you or the world will perceive as ‘worse’ than your own experience. The funny thing about depression though is that it actually doesn’t give a shit about ‘worse’ or ‘better’. It doesn’t care about who has money, who is loved or who is achieving great things. Much the same as physical ailments don’t care who they descend upon either. Those pesky brain chemicals are a law unto themselves for some of us, and the world really needs to start accepting that.
Since I wrote my first post about Mental Health I have been made aware of a new hashtag on Twitter #SB4MH. The blog post from which this is originates is ‘Sex Bloggers for Mental Health’ by Sassy Cat. Strangely I still feel like an imposter in this conversation. Somewhere inside of me is still that niggling thought that my story isn’t as valid as other people’s. I’m committed to using my voice to join others in trying to destigmatise mental illness, no matter where someone may fall on that spectrum. So please do go and visit her blog and follow her links to all the other wonderful sex bloggers sharing their own experiences with mental health.