Why people are afraid of mental health meds

For years there was such a stigma about taking medication for your mental health. The fear of the dreaded drugs was almost as stigmatised as mental health conditions themselves. But the question is, why?

Before I was correctly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I had been to the doctor several times to tell them I wasn’t coping and asked for advice on how to help myself. There were suggestions about mindfulness, counselling and doing lots of exercise, as well as not drinking too much alcohol (something I was doing to try and self-medicate). When they agreed to try me on antidepressant medication, my life changed for the better. So why wouldn’t people want that for themselves?

Ashamed

People are afraid of what others will think of them. I was definitely afraid of what people in my profession would think of me if I told them I was on medication for my brain. When going through a bad patch at work, I ended up having to tell my managers about the depression, anxiety and medication. After a week, they asked me if I was better yet. When I explained that I wasn’t and that the medication was making my brain fuzz, they presented me with a verbal warning. However, despite this lack of understanding and my fear, a few years later I told another employer and they were super supportive.

SILVER LINING: The great thing about medication is that no one needs to know you’re taking it. You can keep that to yourself. If you have the fear of people knowing, just don’t tell anyone. Only tell them when you’re ready.

Looking incapable

This was the biggest fear for me. In the industry I was in, I needed to be top of my game, be the ‘swan’ paddling hard to stay afloat and looking angelic and calm on top. I’ve always been good at putting on different faces depending on where I am. I also got very good at hiding my anxiety, depression and panic attacks behind a forced smile and closed doors.

SILVER LINING: Turns out, I’m actually pretty good at my job and was just in the wrong part of the industry. It took years for me to realise but you learn a lot. I learned that I AM CAPABLE and I CAN DO THINGS and that I’M PRETTY AWESOME. Only tell people about your struggles if you’re comfortable. Confide in a friend, a counsellor or your doctor and only tell people when you feel comfortable doing so. Always know that YOU’RE NOT INCAPABLE and that YOU CAN DO IT.

Side effects

A lot of people avoid taking medication because of the side effects. Admittedly, I had some awful side effects from some of my tablets but when I finally plucked up the courage to tell the doctor that, they were able to help me change over from one to another to another. Not all tablets are made for all people, that’s why there are so many out there. My doctor kept telling me there were only a few but my counsellor said there were so many more. So I pursued it, scary but worth it.

SILVER LINING: If one tablet is making you feel sick or giving you the sweats or night terrors, you can change it. Give it the time it needs to work (6-8 weeks apparently) and if you still don’t feel the side effects fading or that they’re not helping, ask to change them. You have the right. It’s your mind and body.

The silver lining

It’s so hard to tell someone to ignore the above nagging feelings and only because, I’ve been there and I know. I’m not an expert or a doctor but I’ve lived through the fear and the shame and being stubborn and thinking I can do it all by myself. Without the anti-psychotic medication I now take for my Borderline Personality Disorder, I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t be functioning like a semi-human being. When I forget to pick up my prescription, man do I know about it in the way I’m feeling. But they’ve literally saved me so I can cope with the odd hot sweat or night terror.

Please don’t ever be afraid to help yourself. You can do it. You’re stronger than you realise. It might take a few weeks or a few years but if you feel you need a helping hand, ask your doctor about whether medication is right for you.

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Sweet dreams are made of meds…

Sleep is precious. It happens naturally & yet we take the peace of sleep for granted. This is my little pup in her current state of snoozing…

We realise we take sleep for granted when we can’t access it.

In short, I can’t sleep. This is my own fault, however, for 3 reasons:

  1. I didn’t have time to get my prescription for my anti-psychotics at lunchtime today
  2. I haven’t taken cocodamol before bed tonight
  3. The former is because I had some fizz to celebrate Valentine’s Day & can’t take meds’ with it

And the paranoia and anxiety is horrendous. While being in a state of awake & unrest I’ve near-to hyperventilated about the following:

  1. I’m not going to sleep tonight
  2. I might fall asleep driving tomorrow & crash my car on the way to work
  3. Our house will be broken into & I’ll be the only one to save us being the only one awake
  4. Having withdrawal sweats
  5. Waking the puppy up (we’ve spent several 4ams out in the dark garden while she ponders going to the toilet)

The anxiety is crippling. For those who get it regularly, you’ll feel my pain. Hot & cold sweats, tension headache, restlessness & impending chest pains. The more I worry about not sleeping, the worse they get.

I realise that I’m incapable of sleep without medication of some kind. I used to ‘get creative’ at 3am a lot more before the meds. It was a weird one to explain to my now fiancé but he accepted it. And he’ll probably have a giggle at me writing a blog at 4am!

I’ve tried so many methods of ‘chilling out’ but I get so frustrated because they don’t work for me. With my BPD, intense moods & wandering mind, meditation is out the window, as is yoga. Our bath water isn’t currently hot enough for long, relaxing soak & the ‘Sleepy Cream’ moisturiser only goes so far. I’ve put lavender on my pillows & have a relaxing bed time playlist (currently on shuffle) but sleep doesn’t come naturally.

The frustration is presenting itself as anxiety chest pains which aren’t helpful & the sweats are unreal. All this because I forgot to go for a walk at lunchtime. Tomorrow (technically today), it’s on my to-do list.

For now, I’ll just keep ‘trying to sleep’ & keeping an eye on the shadows for a friendly neighbourhood burglar. On a plus, ‘Anxious woman takes down thief with a boot’ does have a newsworthy ring to it….

5 top mental health podcasts for 2019

So, I’m a big fan of my headphones. I’m a big fan of tuning in and tuning out. I love my music but sometimes I get bored. As I was going through my bored stage, I went looking for something new to whet my appetite and keep me occupied on the bus to work or walking at lunchtime.

As you can probably tell, I have a passion for and interest in mental health which is why I got onto iTunes and went searching for the perfect podcast. And there are hundreds out there. If you were thinking of making the jump from music to moments of wisdom and knowledge, check out the podcasts below. The subjects are interesting and I’ve found some really great snippets of mental health advice lurking in them.

CTRL ALT DELETE (Emma Gannon)

Ctrl Alt Delete (Photo credit - Emma Gannon)
Ctrl Alt Delete (Photo credit – Emma Gannon)

If you haven’t heard of podcasting genius, Emma Gannon, you need to. I was drawn to this podcast by some of the topics that Emma covered and some of the guests she had on the programme were really interesting, for example, authors Matt Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive), Bella Mackie (Jog On) and Jodi Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper). There were also episodes that made me laugh out loud on the bus from comedienne and author, Bryony Gordon (Eat, Drink, Run/Mad Girl), and author, Sarah Knight (The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k). All of these people are so honest and accessible thanks to Emma. Their honest conversations make you feel like you’re not alone when you’re having

Favourite episode: CTRl, ALT, DELETE Podcast #69: Bryony Gordon (On Marathons and Mental Health)

Mentally Yrs

Mentally Yrs (Photo credit: Metro Online)

This is a great podcast run by Yvette Caster and Ellen Scott of the Metro Online. They talk frankly and honestly about topics such as mental health and money, living life on the internet and the effects of social media. Both presenters have spoken openly about their own mental health experiences too which really cements what they know and the advice/information given to listeners.

Favourite episode: Talking Borderline Personality Disorder with Beth Allan

Happy Place (Fearne Cotton)

Happy Place (Photo credit: Ferne Cotton)

This is such a, as the title suggests, happy podcast. It’s so full of hope, wisdom and useful information. The idea is to find that bit of happiness and joy and calm time in your busy life so you’re looking after your mental health. Fearne talks about her own experiences too and interviews some great and inspirational people such as Stephen Fry, Emma Willis, Paloma Faith and Melanie C.

Favourite episode: Happy Place, Matt Haig

If I Can Do It

If I Can Do It (Photo credit: Bryony Gordon & The Telegraph)

I do have to say that I BLOODY LOVE this lady, Bryony Gordon. She’s a columnist at The Telegraph newspaper/online and is the author of fantastic books ‘Mad Girl’ and ‘Eat, Drink, Run’. The reason I love her, apart from the swearing and hilarious anecdotes, is her complete honesty. I laughed out loud at the fact that she was convinced to run the London Marathon after seeing the Royals at a Heads Together event! This podcast is all about overcoming the odds to do something incredible. And sometimes, that’s just staying alive.

Most inspirational episode: Mel B (Or Scary Spice from The Spice Girls)

Nothing, I’m Fine

Nothing I’m Fine (Photo credit: Nothing I’m Fine)

This is a new podcast for me but a great one nonetheless. It’s ‘two blondes talking brains’ and chatting openly and honestly about mental health and their experiences. It’s nice because you feel like you’re part of the chat and that you’re sitting quietly in the corner getting some great insight.

Favourite episode: Ep #1 Anxiety, my old friend

Sometimes we need need a bit of reassurance and advice and sometimes, we don’t want to ask for it. We just want to see what we can find out for ourselves and know we’re not alone. I hope you’ll find these useful and enjoy learning and self-helping in a relaxed way, whether you’re in the car, on the bus or taking a walk at lunchtime.

Royal baby? More like royal fear!

News of the arrival of little Prince X has hit the headlines across the world. Stories are circulating about how well the Duchess of Cambridge looks, that she’s wearing the same colour outfit as Princess Diana did many years before, and her general appearance out of hospital. There are Mums everywhere debating about how she looks, how they didn’t look anywhere near as glamorous and other such post birth-related things.

However, for someone with a genuine fear of childbirth, it just gives me baby fear.

This is not a new thing. I’ve had this rather odd fear for sometime, stemming back to school when they give you ‘The Talk’ and explain how babies are made. I remember nearly vomiting and refusing, hands down, that nothing of human proportion would be appearing from…there.

As I got older, the fear got worse. Any talk of babies, birth, giving birth and I get sweaty, feel vomity and get images similar to that of World War Three in my head. I’ve never ever seen the programme ‘One Born Every Minute’ and even when a friend was pregnant and she asked me to watch it with her, I refused. Just hearing all the noise and chaos from the safety of my room made me feel anxious.

The fear has a name. Tokophobia. NCT.org says that one study estimates “one in every five women is affected to some extent by fear of childbirth, and six in every hundred are so scared of giving birth that it affects their pregnancy and birth choices.” So I’m not alone. I’m also in fear as with having Borderline Personality Disorder, I’ve been told I would be at a higher risk of Post Partum Depression and Psychosis. None of this sounds fun.

At the moment, my mind is in a place where I would have a sprog but just because my parents would love grandchildren. I know how much I loved my Nan (and now miss her) and it’s sad that my fear would mean them not being able to be grandparents. However, the whole process of pregnancy, birth and looking after something makes me feel sick.

Apparently therapy can help in this situation. But I don’t know how I feel about having a small human to look after. Looking after the puppy stresses me right out. My other half is so calm and can handle most things. ‘Poonamis’ (when pup decides to poo, eat it and chuck it back up again) he’s not particularly happy about, but who is right?!

If anyone has any advice, I’d be very grateful. I’m on the waiting list for DBT for my Borderline but don’t know if that’ll necessarily help me find my maternal instincts.

 

 

Mental health at work: Why it matters

For so long, so many of us struggling with our mental health have tried to keep our issues well hidden. When asked why there’s unaccounted time-off on our CVs, we’ve simply put it down to ‘taking some time out to develop much needed skills’. If asked at interview if adjustments need to be made for any reason, we’ve shied away and shaken our heads to confirm that no, we don’t need help or support. And this is fine.

However, should we, in this day and age, be hiding our mental health conditions away like diseases we don’t want people to catch?

Courtesy of Mind

Blogging for Mind about mental health at work

When I was starting out in my career, I went at it full force, nothing was stopping me, I could work 24/7 and nothing affected me. Then the paranoia started; were people at work talking about me? Were they doubting my ability to do my job? Did they know I was struggling? Then the Glandular Fever happened and then came the downward mental health spiral.

At interviews for future jobs, I didn’t mention my mental state to anyone. I thought it would jeopardise my career and I already had a low opinion of myself and compared myself to everyone else. Everyone else looked shiny and professional and I was falling behind and falling apart. When I eventually had to tell someone I was struggling with depression, it was dismissed like I was making it up. I needed a doctor’s note as ‘proof’. Then I was given verbal warnings and given the choice of ‘getting better or leaving’.

This shouldn’t ever be a position that someone should find themselves in.

Since I’ve received a diagnosis and been more open about it, the shame is starting to disintegrate, although I do still worry about it and whether employers see me as weak. However, after blogging for Mind and having an amazing response, there are so many people out there being discriminated against for their mental health and IT’S NOT RIGHT.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you tell your employer about your mental health condition but if you do decide to and they treat you badly or differently, it’s discrimination and YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Read more about these on Mind’s website here.

Here are a couple of pointers that might help to start you on your way:

  • Sit down with your Manager in a quiet and calm space
  • Take deep breaths and remember why you’re telling them
  • Speak slowly and don’t feel pressured to rush
  • Be honest and explain what’s happened and what’s going on
  • Let them know you decided to tell them because you’d value their support
  • Ask if there are any adjustments that can be made (if you need them – Have things in mind, for example, starting work later in the morning if you struggle to sleep at night or if driving at rush hour makes you edgy)
  • Thank them for listening and for being supportive

Your Manager might want to talk to HR about your chat so they can get support themselves if needed. Not everyone will know how to help you so they might need some input. All the better if it’s going to help you in the long run.

There’s an interesting article here on Psychology Today about anxiety, stress and mental health in the workplace.

In the end, sharing the state of your mental health and your condition is entirely up to you. No one else. If your workplace is still stigmatising mental health and you don’t feel comfortable disclosing it, you don’t have to. However, if you do want to share, your employer should be open to listening.

 

 

Surviving the toxicity

So, this post is a bit different and whether the person it’s aimed at will actually read it is yet to be seen. I was inspired to write this after seeing an article called ‘To anyone who has to break-up with toxic parents – It’s going to be ok.”

For years, the relationship with my Dad hasn’t been that great. It’s ticked on with polite meet-ups, ‘just checking in’ messages and generally, on and off. It was a relationship based on whether he happened to think of us or not. The thing is, things haven’t improved. They have in fact, gotten worse. This may be down to me growing a pair and facing the demons or it might be because the niceties are just too tedious.

My Dad suffers with PTSD. He has done all his life. He had a diagnosis a few years back and joined a ‘charity’ that quite frankly hasn’t really helped him. They did NLP on him and on me which threw up more problems. The thing is, we’re very different people. I’m pretty proactive in trying to understand my condition (BPD), understand what it involves and how I can help myself to feel better. My Dad, he’d rather wallow in self pity. I’ve tried to help, to direct him to people who can help, suggested he go and talk to someone but he shoots me down. He keeps threatening to kill himself and my Stepmum is obviously really worried. The issue is, he’s threatened it so often that it’s no longer a threat. I know that sounds awful and I sound hideous for saying it but I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to help, tired of him not taking anyone else’s feelings into account and tired of not feeling like he wants us.

My abandonment issues come from him. Psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors tell me so. And I know it. I felt like I was trying really hard and he wasn’t. Once, he didn’t get in touch for six months with my sister and me. It was because we didn’t ring first.

So much has happened and I get really angry thinking about it. Especially when my grandmother died (my Dad’s Mum). My sister and I were so close to her. She was the one we went to whenever he messed up, chose a woman over us and phoned us drunk on several occasions. She was pretty much the Dad we never had. She was absolutely my best friend in the world and she’s gone. His response? To give all responsibility of her funeral and passing to me. I obviously would’ve done anything for her. But him? He shirked all responsibility of being a son and a Dad. He did nothing but hide. He moaned about her when she was alive and it was all about him when she was gone.

The anger has simmered for some time. Then, when there were questions about what was wrong with me mentally, I asked him whether he had been diagnosed with Autism or Borderline. His response? ‘I’m not fucking Borderline or Autistic.’ He then rang me in a drunken stupor telling me that he had in fact been diagnosed with Borderline years ago. I’m angry just writing this.

My Stepmum has tried to help but she has also made me feel like everything is my fault. That I should apologise and I should be the one to talk to him. My response? NO. I am not the adult in this relationship and I am not the one who’s in the wrong.

My sister and I have been unlucky with him but so lucky with our amazing Mum and Stepdad who have supported us in everything we’ve done. We are really lucky. They’ve had to listen to what he’s done and be gracious about it. They’ve been there for the heartbreak he caused, the tears and the ‘I told you so’s’.

I’m so angry at him and I’m still 8 years old and upset about him not turning up at the school gates when he should’ve or purposely blanking my sister and me when we saw him with his horrible ex-wife.  Some people will say ‘Stop living in the past’ and they have. Some will think I’m awful for saying what I have but all I say is, you weren’t me. Some will support and for that I thank you. And some will know exactly where I’m coming from.

Thank you for reading and listening.

 

 

*Please vote for me!*

This is a bit of an ‘out of the ordinary’ post but what the heck.

This blog is a finalist in the Regional Awards in Cardiff where I’m from. I’m absolutely delighted that its potential has been recognised in the ‘Influencer Award’ category.

Influencer-AwardI’m in a category with some awesome talent and pretty top notch blogs. I’m not expecting to get especially far but it would be amazing if you could spare 30 seconds and vote for me.

I would absolutely appreciate it!

To get a mental health blog as a finalist in a local awards ceremony is a pretty good feat. Considering how much stigma is still out there, putting it into the public sphere is winning enough and I’m mega proud. (Not over keen on how much it is to go along but hey-ho, I’ll save a couple of quid if I don’t end up winning anyway!)

Big love to everyone!x

Mental health, debt and ‘breathing space: what it all means.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (started by Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert) have found data suggesting that 23,000 people in hospital for a mental health problem were being hounded by banks, credit card companies and local authorities for payment, despite their conditions.

Charities, like Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, are joining the MMHPI in calling for a ‘breathing space’ scheme whereby these organisations would stop charging people interest, charges and fees for a certain amount of time if they approached them for help and support.

As someone who’s been on the receiving end of banks and credit card company houndings, this is definitely good to hear. It should also be extended to those who have been diagnosed by their GP and going through treatment and Community Mental Health Teams too. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean you’re coping or dealing with life as well as you could be.

I used to do things like:

  • Ignore statements from the bank and hide them in the wardrobe
  • Not answer the phone for fear of it being the bank
  • Ring the bank for advice, listen to what they had to say, but not do any of it
  • Pay back some of my credit cards but re-spend again when I had no money
  • Go on a spending spree because I needed cheering up and not feel bad about it until I had to face the statements

It sucked. Royally. However, the bank did not help because:

  • They never asked why I was spending so much so quickly
  • They automatically increased the credit card limits so I would spend more money (I think this should stop happening as it’s taking advantage)
  • They never signposted me to any other agencies who could help

Back in December, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post about what it was like having a mental health condition and being in debt. Many of you guys reading this may well have been in that position before, not wanting to face your money matters head on or worrying so much about them that you make yourself sick or have panic attacks.

To me, this ‘Breathing Space’ scheme seems like a positive move in bringing mental health and debt into the public eye and get people talking about it. Government now needs to listen. It could help so many people. It could ultimately save lives.

My advice if you’re in this debt spiral:

  • Don’t hide your bank statements
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend for help
  • Go to a charity like Mind or StepChange who can give you guidance or even Citizen’s Advice
  • Look up information on budgeting and see if you can give it a go
  • Cut up your credit cards
  • Give your debit card to a loved one and use cash

I’m slowly working myself out of my ‘bad debt’ (credit cards, overdrafts) so I can pay more off my ‘good debt’ (mortgage, house stuff) which is quite a nice feeling. I still don’t feel like I’m good with money but I’m getting better.

YOU CAN DO IT. You have the power to change things 🙂

Sense and Sensibility…and Shots

Happy Monday one and all. I hope you had fabulous weekends and managed to take some time for yourselves. In general, I had a lovely weekend but as the title suggests, I didn’t manage to weigh up being sensible with having tequila shots!

It’s on a very rare occasion these days that I actually drink alcohol. Years ago, I would be out all the time with my friends, being really boozy and trying to drink away the anxiety. However, and as many of you will probably know, it definitely doesn’t help. In fact, it makes things worse. Recently, because of my new diagnosis, Dad-stuff and studying stuff, I’ve been feeling really angry and anxious. I’m not entirely sure my anti-psychotic medication is helping as I’ve now started having chest pains which I’ve never had before and have lost the feeling in three of the toes on my left foot (odd I know).

Anyway, going off topic as per usual!

So I started my weekend out with my local Parkrun and 144 other enthusiastic runners at 9am on Saturday morning. I felt like a just needed to run the anxiety out of me. It was getting more and more pent-up. It was a good run and nearly had a PB.

Then there was shopping and spending time with my Mum and sister which was fun and cuddling the puppy later in the afternoon.

I got myself into an anxious and angry tizz before I even left the house as I couldn’t decide what to wear and could feel the rage building. Eventually (the pup had fallen asleep by the time I’d chosen what to wear), I left the house and my little sis ‘made me up’ for my evening out.

img_1671

Then there was gin. Then there was a Long Island Ice Tea. And then there was Tequila. The latter being all my undoing. I don’t think of how awful it makes me feel until it’s the day after and I actually want to die. The evening was amazing and there were conversations flowing about mental health and how we were all dealing with our problems. An alcohol fuelled therapy session.

img_1657

The day after. I felt OK, bit of a headache. By 10.30am, I was cleaning the house, stripping the beds and doing the washing. I then took the puppy on a long-ish walk, sorted and cleaned my wardrobe, did the food shopping, made dinner, and cleaned the kitchen (again). This might look like me being super productive but when I’m on the edge-of-my-seat anxious, I clean. Obsessively. I get angry and raging when things aren’t tidy or in their place. Luckily, my partner was out so didn’t get to see me throwing things about. THIS is the problem with alcohol.

Then came the chest pains, the rushing thoughts, the panic attack and my poor other half telling me I was going to hospital. I panicked about him leaving me and started ranting about my Dad. My partner insisted on hospital but I refused to go. There’s nothing they could do about it so I just sat and waited for the pains to settle. My lovely man sat and gave me hugs, made me laugh and helped to take my mind off things. I used the reliable co-codamol to knock me out and help the pains.

What I’m gathering from this is that common sense should’ve told me not to drink as much as I did. I should’ve had the intelligence and sensibility not to do that to myself but ultimately, the shots won. I was upset because having a drink for me is not the same as it is for the majority of people and it makes me sad.

Those of you who struggle with your mental health, have you given up drinking altogether? Is that the best way forward?