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.

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.

Torn feelings: A diagnosis

So, finally, after so many years of struggling emotionally and mentally, the psychologist revealed to me today what it is that’s been going on with me.

The Daily Prompt of ‘Torn’ is quite fitting.

The very nice psychologist came to the following conclusions about me:

  1. I have severe social anxiety
  2. I have a sensory disorder (I get overloaded by certain things I see, hear or feel)
  3. I have Alexithymia(I have difficulty inexperiencing, expressing and describing my emotions and how I feel)

So, not only am I torn about how I feel but also my mind is torn three different and separate ways. And now I have to work out how to deal with each of them.

This is pretty spot on right now…

It’s bad, isn’t it, that my whole life I’ve never fitted in and now the same’s true for my diagnosis? I was frustrated, angry, disappointed and cried a hell of a lot. That’s because I know how to do this and do it well. And this rings true…

I was told a few days ago that I was an ‘interesting case’ and that I was ‘definitely special and fabulous’. Lovely, but seeing as compliments freak me out and make me awkward, it wasn’t great.

I have a full report basically telling me I’m very anxious. Which I knew.

The cause? For those who know me, you’ll already know this…My Dad. This surprises me not. That’s a WHOLE different blogpost for when I’m less seethingly angry at him. Or when it’s simmering. I write better when there’s simmering.

For now, I’ll continue to be torn between the diagnosis I got today and what I’ve been told in the past, and try to find my way to self-help.

❤️❤️❤️

If anyone has any hints or tips on dealing with the above, that would be awesome.

My best buddy Anger

During the process of trying to find out exactly what my issues are and how to deal with them, I’ve discovered I have a new best friend.

Someone that I’m drawing closer to, taking knowledge from, and someone who’s leading by example in my life at present. My good old buddy, Anger. This is how I think she’d look…

img_0991-1

Now, you might know Anger and be able to quieten her down when she gets too much. I can’t seem to do this. She’s the friend you don’t want.

You’re quite happily plodding along with your distant buddies ‘Calm’ and ‘In control’ when suddenly, Anger feels neglected and kicks off that you’re not paying her any attention. Then, ‘BAM!’ you’re on a one-woman trip to Regretsville with no way of getting off that train. Again, it’s what I imagine & I don’t actually look like that ⬇️


Anyone who struggles with their anger will know only too well what if feels like.

So, the other morning, I was trying to eat my breakfast and the puppy was being naughty. She was trying to eat the curtains, Christmas tree, my foot, digging the carpet and barking; basically anything to get my attention. I, thanks to various books and training advice, was ignoring her.

However, the surge of anger came. Now, the rational side of my brain said ‘She’s only a puppy’ and ‘You know she’s doing this for attention’, however the ir-rant-tional side is screaming ‘I can’t take it. She’s interrupting my routine and my time. She’s distracting me and being a nightmare’.

Physical feelingsBurning/fluttering in the pit of my stomach

  • Feeling hot
  • Feeling flush with rage
  • Getting the shakes
  • Getting hot sweats
  • Wanting to punch something
  • Wanting to scream

Mental feelingsRage

  • Stress
  • Irritability

Anger, of course, is there egging me on. It’s making me want to scream at the top of my lungs until I run out of air, cry hysterically, leave the house and runaway. Anger is basically taking over and kicking me out of my own skin. Since I’ve started on new medication (Quetiapine), it’s getting worse. I’m getting angry because I’m letting Anger get to me and spur me on.

If anyone has any tips of how they control their good friend Anger, I’m all ears.

I’m trying to move away from my intoxicating friend Anger & focus more on those true friends, Calm & In Control & Safe. The ones that keep me (half) sane and keep me out of trouble. The fluttery feelings will hopefully pass & I’m going to attempt to stay away from Anger & her train to Regretsville & maybe give Patience and Calm a try. I hear they’re lovely this time of year.

It’s been emotional, Anger buddy, but it’s time we parted ways. For now.

Today, this is me. Who can relate?

So today, this is me.

Tomorrow, this is most certainly who I’ll be.

But I might be a different version of this me that you see.

Getting this diagnosis, will it set me free?

From not really knowing who or what is me.

I know I should be thinking, what will be will be,

But a mind like mine doesn’t work this way, all emotions there you see.

I know I will be fine, of this we both agree,

I just need to know right now, who or what is me.

To put into context, tomorrow is my evaluation/results with my psychiatrist & I’m very nervous. I know it shouldn’t matter what they tell me but ultimately, it does. It might help to explain ‘me’ better.

Anyone relate to this?

Book Review: ‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’ by Marya Hornbacher

If you haven’t heard of Marya Hornbacher and haven’t had the opportunity to read her powerful biography ‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’, this is my intervention. And you should.

After speaking to my counsellor and mentioning possible diagnoses of Autism and Bipolar 2, I decided to see if there were any books around these subjects and this was the first of my finding. And I’m glad it was. Although Marya has severe Bipolar Disorder 1, some of the things she mentions doing in her book hit home.

“My brain sometimes departs from the agreed-upon reality, and my private reality is a very lonely place. But in the end, I’m not sure I wish I’d never gone there.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life

img_0500The way that she describes her experiences are both poetic and ultimately, sad. She talks about madness as if it’s  “…sitting in an old plaid bathrobe in your kitchen, unpleasant and unshaved. Madness is a rotten guest.”

Don’t we all just feel that way? Those days where you head into the bathroom to get ready for work and the day ahead but you can’t. There’s something stopping you, standing in your way and not letting you move ahead. You want to do life but you don’t. All at the same time.

I have an appointment with a psychiatrist this week and I don’t know how my mind will behave. Do I want it to behave? Do I want it to behave like a naughty toddler, kicking up a fuss so the doctor can see what it’s really like? I’m so nervous. When I was assessed before and was having a bit of an episode, I drove my car into a lorry. It was stationary. It was my fault. I don’t wholly remember it. The Mental Health Team’s response? ‘It won’t be your mind or the tablets. We can’t account for bad driving.’ Hence my fear and anxiety.

“I’m sick. It’s true. It isn’t going to go away. All my life, I’ve thought that if I just worked hard enough, it would. I’ve always thought that if I just pulled myself together, I’d be a good person, a calm person, a person like everyone else.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life

I honestly take my mental health hat off to Marya for her bravery and creativity writing this reflection. At times, I felt so sad for her, then angry at the system for fobbing her off for so long, then a sense of association and finally, a wish for her to have peace and find the help she needed.

Ending the stigma surrounding mental health and especially conditions like Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Multiple Personality Disorder and so on, has never been so important. Next on my list to read is ‘Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction and the 12 Steps’

‘Madness: A Bipolar Life’ is definitely a must-read. It’s a tough read but it will just make you admire Marya Hornbacher even more.

My First Time to Change Talk

Yesterday, despite being a Time to Change Champion for the past year, I did my first Anti-Stigma talk to around 40 members of the local police force. And it went really well.

I was a little bit nervous about getting up and talking to people about Time to Change and my personal experiences with mental health at work. I’d created some slides with plenty of pictures and (what I thought to be) interesting content. I really wanted to do this talk to find out how the police were approaching mental health with their officers and what help was available.

The weather was awful on the motorway and made the 20-minute motorway journey less enjoyable. Found the venue and chucked some make up on in the car. As we arrived, the nerves started to creep in but not as badly as they used to. I was getting the anxiety sweats despite feeling quite calm so decided my winter cardi had to come off. Alas, I managed to get dressed wrong and was wearing my top back-to-front. The cardigan stayed on and the sweats remained.

The officers were so good and listened to what I had to say. There were questions afterwards which I answered and made sure I didn’t waffle! It was reassuring having one of the co-ordinators from Time to Change there with me for my first rodeo.

After completing the talk, some of the officers complimented me on what I’d spoken about which was really amazing. A few years ago, talking about my mental health, what happened with work places and highlighting the discrimination I faced, was something I would never have done. I’m hoping that sharing my story will help others, especially some of those guys in the police who are so brave and see all sorts of things.

With my sister being an officer, I worry about her and her mental health. I’ve tried to palm her off with leaflets and information but according to the police trainer yesterday, they can access counselling and groups internally. He also said they’d look after her. News to my ears for sure!

If you ever feel brave enough to share your mental health story, absolutely do. You never know who might hear it or see it and feel empowered.

Yesterday, figures were released that said 300,000 people in the UK had workplace issues because of their mental health. There needs to be a change in the way employers approach those with depression, anxiety, bipolar etc. Granted, some people don’t feel comfortable sharing. It all depends on how your boss is.

 

Why our children need our help

As I was driving to work today, I heard on the radio that Childline has ‘received its highest number of counselling sessions with young people having suicidal thoughts and feelings.

This is really sad for a number of reasons:

  1. Children are children. They’re supposed to enjoy being young and not worry about adult problems
  2. Social media. So many images, so much pressure, so much comparison
  3. The pressure. Society wants children to perform to the highest standard, get the best grades, go to the best universities but isn’t taking into account how unhappy they are
  4. Bullying. Has a profound affect on someone. I was bullied and I still hate remembering it now

Some of the stats from Childline/BBC News are particularly sad:

  1. 22,456 counselling sessions were given to children wanting to take their own lives
  2. 72% of those having counselling sessions were girls
  3. 13,746 of the sessions were due to children having anxieties

The stat about the amount of girls receiving counselling is shocking but not surprising. Girls are more likely to tell someone if they’re feeling down whereas boys tend to just get on with it. Does that mean that there are far more children/boys feeling so awful they can’t tell anyone? And if so, what can we do to help?

Charities like Time to Change are proactively heading into schools to talk to children about mental health. More awareness means more children can be helped. More awareness also means that we’ll see how many more children are suffering than first thought. There was also a discussion by government about teaching children earlier in life about how to cope with stress, anxiety and what to do if they’re being bullied. This might just help a few more children to cope with the stresses of being young in the 2000s.

If you’re a young ‘un or have any who are struggling, get them to give Childline a call. If you’re a bit older, the Samaritans can listen when you’re feeling rubbish.

What would have helped you when you were younger? What support do you wish was available?

 

Why being a Human Book is awesome…

Yep, you read correctly. And, as someone who loves reading, this was a fantastic opportunity.

The premise behind the Human Library movement is to break down stigma and prejudices in society. It’s about finding out more about people from different cultures, minorities and backgrounds and, not to judging a book by its cover.

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So, being a Human Book means you get to tell your story… And choose your book title. For someone like me who’s obsessed with books and reading, being surrounded by books and buying books, this was such an amazing opportunity. My title was ‘Living on the edge…of my seat’, all about turning my mental health from a negative to a positive and what that’s helped me to achieve. There were some amazing books available for talking to including ‘Seeing the funny side’, ‘Thriving not Surviving’ and ‘The Singing Pensioner’! The lovely singing gentleman just filled so many people with smiles and serenaded someone whenever he got the chance.

For me, talking to lots of people I don’t know from 12-4pm was pretty easy and pretty awesome. It also highlighted going from speaking to no one anywhere for fear of rejection years ago, to talking to anyone. My self esteem crept in once we were all seated and I thought ‘Well, I don’t think anyone will come and talk to me but that’s ok. I can go and listen to the other books.’ Oh how wrong I was.

HB

It was incredible. From 12pm when it started until 4pm when I left, people wanted to speak to me. And I really enjoyed speaking to them and finding out more about their experiences. It was definitely overwhelming but in the best kind of way. People from all different cultures, backgrounds, ways of life and experience came and sat with me. We chatted about everything we could in the 30mins we were allocated.

This amazing gentleman was from Syria and had only just started learning to speak English. He spoke to me for about 40mins and it was incredible. His life story and passion to do well in the UK was inspiring. I kept telling him how well he was doing and how his English ability was fantastic. (In this photo, he was showing me how young he looked without a beard!)

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It was interesting having lots of different conversations but also talking about mental health, how people felt about it’s representation and how they were coping with the stresses and anxieties in their lives. There were some inspirational stories about overcoming depression for family, accepting who you are and people trying to improve their lives with smiles on their faces.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone writes their own stories and create them day-by-day. The difference between you and a paperback book is that you can create your own future. You can escape from what makes life miserable because you, are amazing. You have the power. And you can totally nail being a Human Book.

Find out more about Human Library Cardiff and Human Books UK.