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.

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.

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?

 

The blues, the masks and the light at the end of the tunnel

*Warning: The video in this post may act as a trigger for anyone suffering with their mental health*

So Tuesday was World Mental Health Awareness Day, a time for everyone to look at how they talk about mental health and how as a nation we can improve it. A day for Time to Change Champions like me to be vocal about stigma and reaching out to those who might be in trouble. Instead, I had my lowest dip I’ve had in a while.

Normally, and to the outside world, I’m looking a bit like this…

PICcollahe

We’re talking no sleeping, crying, thoughts of life ending, feeling hopeless and lost and overall, guilty. I put a warning in above because when I was having my meltdown in my partner’s car (literally went to move it off the driveway), I filmed myself. Ballsy move some might say. But, I wanted to show that some people who appear to be jolly, happy-go-lucky people on the outside might need help and support on the inside.

Here goes… (Excuse the giant face to start with)

So, yes it might not make sense and yes, I was very snotty and yes, a serious amount of tissues were harmed in the making of this spur-of-the moment video, but for good reason.

I hate attention, I don’t work well with compliments and pity makes me feel funny. All I wanted to show was that those you think have everything sussed out and be coping, might not be. As a consequence of my meltdown, I did manage to see a doctor at our new surgery.

I was so scared and had already decided that they weren’t going to help me after previous bad experiences. However, my catastrophic brain was wrong. While in a high and flighty mood a few days previously, I’d made a list of things that I experience. I’d also been filling in a Mood Diary too. So I was armed.

The doctor was amazing. She sat me and my partner down (he was there for support, oh, and to provide tissues) and asked me to start from the beginning. She was so patient and kind and really listened. She said what I’d tracked was useful and that I needed to keep monitoring my sleep (or lack of) and my mood patterns. She prescribed me a totally different kind of tablet and explained what it was and how it could help for now. She also said she’d refer me to a psychiatrist. Out of my horrible ‘I don’t want to live anymore’ mood came a light.

My partner has been an absolute angel. He’s been so supportive and kind and let me cry all over his shoulder. He’s given me tissues for my snotty nose and tried to make me laugh to distract from the pain. I feel so guilty that I have this most amazing person, we have our own home and I’m still, in the depths of my brain, horrifically sad. But he makes it better. He shows me that there’s a light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Sometimes, we have to drop the mask, accept the blues and keep focussing on that bright light of hope. I realised how good I was at hiding my feelings when I asked my partner if he’d noticed any change in me in the past few months. He said he had but also said ‘You hide everything so well but you have been more up and down.’ Even those closest to us have no idea. This is when it’s good to drop the act, get rid of the mask and attack it head on.

Never give up on looking after yourself or your mental health. It’s so important. If at first you don’t succeed with family, friends or doctors, kick up a stink. It’ll be worth it.

Take Pride, be proud

Happy Tuesday lovely people. If you’re a UK resident, I hope you enjoyed the long Bank Holiday weekend. I put mine to good use.

As a Time to Change Champion, part of the volunteer role is go out and share your story with others in the hope of encouraging more people to talk about their mental health. A really important and relevant topic at the moment. Because I work full-time, I tend to miss out on going out to businesses and presenting so I embrace any opportunity to help the charity open-heartedly!

This weekend, I was lucky enough to go along and support the Time to Change team at Pride Cymru. This celebration of people was so heart-warming and so amazing to see. Cardiff looks to have opened its arms to so many different people and, despite being straight, I was so proud to be part of the celebrations on the weekend. There were rainbows everywhere you looked, hundreds taking part in the parade through the city centre and families enjoying a day out.

My friend Becky and I got all kinds of involved with Dust and Dance glitter on our faces…

Becky and me

You can’t beat a cheeky bit of glitter!

We spent the day talking to lots of people about mental health, hearing their stories and admiring their bravery. One teenage girl told me that she’d come along to Pride with her friends but had that morning come out to her Mum. I couldn’t believe how amazing she was. I can’t imagine how scary it must’ve been for her. But here she was, all dressed up and celebrating with her friends. She said she’d struggled with her mental health but was feeling like a weight had been lifted by embracing who she was.

We met older people, teenagers and families who were all getting in the spirit. It was great to see families with small children, showing them that it’s OK to be yourself, no matter who that is.

TTCW Pride

Plenty of local businesses were getting involved including Coffee#1, South Wales Police and the Principality Building Society.

We missed the lovely Anya (one of the faces of Time to Change and whose blog Me, Myself and Eyes is one to follow) but were extremely happy to see the lovely Beth appear, despite her being really poorly….

Squad

All in all, this awesome event let everyone be themselves and brighter. We were out in force talking mental health while everyone else was promoting equality in a similar fashion. This was my first event and it was amazing hearing the stories, meeting the people and putting faces to a charity that campaigns for ending mental health stigma.

How do you feel about sharing your mental health story? Do you think it helps others to see what you’re going through? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!