Tag: Mental Health

Mental Health Matters #3

It was my birthday back in November and I’d booked the day off work. What actually happened was I ended up having two weeks off courtesy of my doctor after I phoned her in a terrible state.

Winter has kicked my butt big time. The dark and the cold has done nothing to help my mood. October brought with it a lot of memories of a tricky time in my childhood, and it left me feeling like a little girl again. I was a little girl with a child of her own to look after though and I didn’t really know where to turn. For the first time in a long time I wanted my Mum, and as someone who does a very good job at glossing over just how hard her death was for me, wanting her in itself was a struggle.

After I got off the phone to my doctor I felt like I needed to tell Bakji what had been discussed. The time off work, the medication, my overall low mood and extreme lack of motivation. I was so worried though, I didn’t want to feel bad again for needing that time and the pharmaceutical involvement to feel functional. I didn’t want it to be about him either, I dreaded having to apologise for my brain failings and I didn’t want to have navigate his disappointment in me.

For the first time ever though someone responded in a way that helped me. Even writingIMG_7083.JPG that sentence makes me feel guilty. My mum was amazing in so many ways, and my ex-husband is a wonderful man, so pointing out that they didn’t get it right when it comes to this topic is really hard.

What Bakji did different though was trust me. He trusted me to know that taking the medication was right for me, and he offered affection and support when I needed it most. Which means that I am still successfully taking the medication I am prescribed, making this my longest stint ever on antidepressants and the positive outcomes have been huge for me.

I have for as long as I can remember suffered from bad dreams. These range from just being unpleasant, to being real mind-fucks and at the extreme end can be night terrors, lucid nightmares and sleep paralysis. I won’t go into to details but in the worst of these cases I know I’m stuck in a nightmare, I can’t wake myself up to escape and I can’t move because of the sleep paralysis, but I’m aware enough to know I want to both wake up and move. I’m 33 and spent a large portion of last year sleeping with the light on due to these being so frequent that bedtime became quite scary.

When I started taking the Sertraline prescribed to me I noticed a couple of things that I took note of as possible positive side effects. Firstly I felt calmer when it came to bedtime and turning the light of not only became possible but welcomed. Then when I was asleep the more extreme nightmares had eased off incredibly. I still get a decent amount of mind-fuck dreams, which quite honestly are unpleasant, but a walk in the park compared to the other ones.

For the longest time no one has been able to offer any real clarity on why I have those kind of nightmares. I am now wondering if I’d just stuck with taking the medication all those years back then perhaps I could have saved myself from a lifetime of horrendous nightmares.

Some of the thoughts I had when I was prescribed antidepressants this time round were; ‘I don’t want to be dependent on medication to be happy’, ‘what will people say if they find out’ and ‘who am I going to disappoint this time’. Now I have lifted out of my fog a little my responses to those thoughts are very different. For a start I’m too old to give a fuck about what other people think about me looking after myself. If someone is disappointed in me for having out of whack brain chemicals, well they can deal with that issue themselves. As for being dependent on medication, I am honestly really glad it’s there for me to lean on right now. There is nothing else I or anyone else can do to change what is happening in my brain, but medication can help and that is such a relief.

I’m not saying the Sertraline has been a cure all. I do have to do other things to support my mental well-being. Exercise, healthy eating and supplements are a big part of that. I know I still have areas to address. I have things I probably should talk to a professional about, but I don’t even know where to being with unravelling those topics. If I’m totally honest I don’t know if I’m ready or able to open up about them either. They have been in my minds periphery while I’ve been writing these posts, and it has hurt just to acknowledge their small intrusion into my thoughts.

IMG_7082Medication for depression, anxiety and/or a whole host of other mental health disorders may not be the right path for everyone and I am by no means endorsing the brand of medication I am taking. Too many people suffer in silence though, due to not only the stigma of having mental health issues to begin with, but by being strong enough to seek help and take medication or attend counselling where needed. This post is another step towards me doing my bit to break the silence.

If you would like to read more posts from sex bloggers who write about mental health then Sassy Cat has compiled a wonderful list in her post ‘Sex Bloggers for Mental Health’. You can also follow #sb4mh on Twitter.

Mental Health Matters #2

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.

IMG_6921.JPGI 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 themIMG_6919.JPG 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.

IMG_6920.JPGEven 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.

Mental Health Matters #1

Mental health and the support people receive when they are affected by less than stellar mental health is a subject close to my heart, but not one I ever write about in any detail. I sometimes make a passing comment about how I need to be careful when it comes to my mental well being, but no more than that.

The reason I don’t write about it isn’t because I’m ashamed and I don’t think suffering with mental health issues makes me less awesome, my reasons for not writing about it are twofold. My first experiences with opening up about how I felt didn’t encourage me to discuss things further, and secondly I’m aware my struggles aren’t as bad as others, so I sometimes feel my story isn’t as important to share.

The people I follow on Twitter have got me thinking about my own experiences and I have decided that it’s time to start talking about my experiences. The tweet that got the ball rolling in my mind was in relation to how should we help when our children are suffering from depression.

When I was 17 I first opened up to my Mum about feeling constantly sad, having no motivation and feeling generally lost in life. I’d always been a good student, and I loved school. So it came as a surprise to me when after a few months in college I was skipping classes and feeling like I had no idea what I was doing. I loved my Mum (R.I.P) dearly but her reaction to this situation is what I began to reflect upon this week.

Instead of seeing that my behaviour was unusual, and reasoning that there must a cause for my actions, she went straight into anger and disappointment. When I explained how I was feeling, her next set of emotions weren’t much better. Somehow my depression was about her. It became about how my brains reaction to life made her feel bad. Where had she gone wrong? Was it that decision she made? Or this decision she made? Did I hate my life? Did I hate her? Did I blame her? On and on it went and it made me wish I’d just kept quiet.

As a mother myself I fully understand the emotions that can besiege us when our child is in a bad place. My little boy is only 6 but as a Mother who divorced his Father, I know all too well the feelings of guilt and hurt that accompany your child voicing their upset. Especially if you think you are the cause. I am trying to be a safe space for my son. I want him to know that whatever he needs to say can be said to me without fear of the fallout. I know he won’t always share things that I’ll love to hear, but in my mind what matters is that he can say them.

IMG_6888.JPGMy own depression began after two bereavements. Even though there was a 3 year gap between the two, I had never found my way to discussing how the first had affected me before the second hit. In the wake of her reaction, this was something I felt I couldn’t confide in my Mum. She had lost her Brother and her Mother, I felt like my grief at losing an Uncle and a Nan, must be less than hers, and it felt wrong to claim her sadness as my own. Twenty years after his death though I’m still carrying the burden of that belief, I truly wish I had known that it was okay for me to feel all the things I did.

To her credit my Mum did encourage me to go the Doctor and to be honest about what I was experiencing. My doctor recommended medication, and counselling. At the time I felt ashamed of needing either. It seemed like I was letting everyone down by needing that kind of help.

I started taking the medication, but I will be honest and say I didn’t take it for long. The pressure to ‘feel better’ was immense, and so I just stopped taking them and said I didn’t feel like needed them anymore and no one argued with that. Which I now find really upsetting. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be the last time this occurred. I also went to the counselling, and I opened up a little bit about my grief, mostly for my Uncle. Each time I left a session though I was a mess. It was like prodding around in a unhealed wound, trying to get all the crap out so it could finally begin to mend. This was lost on everyone around me though, to them it just wasn’t working. So I stopped going and I’ve never been back, despite going through some things that I suspect I really should have sought counselling for.

What I need when I was 17 was solid information on depression, anxiety, grief and emotional hygiene. Unfortunately that last one is something my family as a whole has no clue about. I needed my depression to be about me. I need to know that our problems are relative to own situations, and someone else’s depression or grief being ‘worse’ does not make mine ‘less’.

Instead what I took from my first experience of talking about mental health was that the best way to deal with it was to withdraw and hide how I felt. I developed an unhealthy level of stoicism, to the point it almost became a source of pride. I have had people congratulate me on being strong and be in awe of how well I can ‘move on’. In truth I just know how to put on a brave face, and repressing your feelings isn’t moving on.

My first reaction when I feel low and when I’m in midst of struggling with troublesome thoughts is to push people away. No hugs thank you, I’m crying. Don’t be kind because right now I’m letting you down by feeling. This has had massive repercussions for my life. A fact I am only now beginning to see in its entirety. Possibly because for the first time in my life I’m actually taking antidepressants properly.

This isn’t a post about blame and I hope it doesn’t read as such. My Mum had her ownIMG_6887.JPG struggles with depression, and I suspect she had never had anyone give her the support and encouragement she needed to get through it herself. I doubt she ever came across the information she needed to make sense of her own depression either. The education in this country, and indeed the world over is not good enough when it comes to mental health. The access to the resources many people need is also lacking in many areas. I think this is what prevented me following through on the treatments I needed.

I am sharing my experiences one post at a time, it would be a bit of a novel if I hit you with it all at once. I normally try and offer some advice or reasons behind my thoughts when I write a blog post. I try to make them functional pieces of writing that can impart something useful to my readers. I’m not entirely sure I can take that route with these posts. I just wrote them to talk about my experience in the hope that if anyone resonates with them they know that they’re not alone.

If you need anymore proof that you are not alone, above is one of the Tweets that prompted me to get writing about this topic. It includes a #SoSS post by Miss Jezebella championing lots of sex bloggers who have also shared their own experiences with mental health.