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.

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.

Review: ‘Out of this World’ Launch

Bit of a different post from me today but quite a nice one. I was invited by Escentual and the Wales Blog Network to go along to an ‘Out of this World’ launch last night.

It was a blogger event aimed at telling us blogging folk about some awesome new products, mainly a brand new Benefit Cosmetics product. As someone who rarely wears make-up, I was pretty excited about this event as Benefit is the only make-up I wear on the few occasions I wear it.

I asked my little sister to come along with me for an hour and see what it was all about. Doing things with her is really calming and great fun. She’s such a good influence on my anxiety!

As we arrived, we were greeted with a ‘spaceship’ in the car park…

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…and some lovely ladies donning some rather snazzy spacesuits! These guys were the lovely staff from Escentual, an online retailer in all things fragrance, make-up and skincare set up in 2000 by Rakesh Aggarwal. The company is a great local success story and stocks over 9,500 products, so a little something for everyone.

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After chatting with some of the staff, we were taken up to Escentual HQ to hear a bit more about what they do and what sort of products they stock. We were treated to a cheeky Be At One cocktail (a Pornstar Martini on a Monday I hear you say!) and then got to go inside the Benefit spacecraft for some lessons on the new Benefit Cosmetics BadGal Bang mascara (RRP £21.50)

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As a MAJOR Benefit fan, I obviously loved this experience. Hearing all about the ‘gravity defying’ technology behind it all and getting to try it out was a treat. And wow…It was fair to say we were all impressed. My sister looked like she was wearing false eyelashes! See how awesome she looks?

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Me and my sister with our BadGal lashes!

It was such a lovely evening and we were spoiled rotten by the Escentual staff. We continued a tour of their new premises and were told all about the make-up and the Make Up Forever range that they stock.

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We got chatting to the Globetrotter GP who was there taking in the excitement of the evening and heard all about her awesome blog. (If you’re into your travel and some great advice, take a look!)

On leaving, we were presented with some lovely goodies from the ever smiley staff and my sister even got a little something too (which she was delighted about!). These were our happy faces on taking part in this event…

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A huge thank you for the invite Wales Blog Network and Escentual. It was a lovely night, we learned a lot and we’ll be looking at ordering our make-up from you guys in the future!

Being included in something a bit different and being able to blog about it, has been really good. I always felt a bit out of my depth at events like this before but it didn’t matter if you were full-on glam or just into the health and wellbeing side of it like me, you were made to feel really welcome.

There once was a girl allergic to life

When I told my partner the Daily Prompt was ‘Allergic’, he laughed wholeheartedly out loud. Here’s why…

I happen to have a lot of allergies & these sunnies are my besties all year round!

My family & friends think it’s quite funny. Even I think it’s pretty laughable to wear sunglasses in the dark & inside because my eyes are puffed up!

Anyways, always one to take advantage, here’s my little poem about it!

There once was a girl allergic to life,

Dust, pollen, feathers & even to wildlife.

It affected her face & made her sneeze,

Made her ears itch & made her wheeze.

She wore sunglasses in winter & in the rain,

To hide her puffy eyes again & again.

She had shares in Piriton & Benedryl too,

Every month buying 50 packets of tissues.

But still all year round she wears those sunnies inside,

Because she’s the girl who’s allergic to life!

😎🤧😂

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 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.

 

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! 

Everything changes but you…

Now I know that one of my best friends will absolutely love me for naming my latest post after a song by her most favourite boy band (now man-band) on the planet. It seemed appropriate. We actually went to see Take That in concert in June and it was great fun. As someone who normally goes to see rock/metal bands, this was definitely a change!

Take That

Hearing this song on the radio the other day got me thinking about my current situation. Everything is definitely changing and my anxiety is in a state of flux. And it’s my own fault for wanting to move forward in life.

Last week, I:

Waved goodbye to my current job to pursue a new role elsewhere

After 2 1/2 years, I said goodbye to lots of amazing people and friends too. It was a really sad day. There were some changes made at my place of work that I didn’t agree with and couldn’t carry on there. Sounds trivial but it was to do with talking therapies. Feeling so strongly about it, I had to take a step back. I was a bit of a champion for mental health in the office so it was a big deal to me. However, I’m really excited about going back in a few weeks’ time to do some Mental Health First Aid Training with them which will be amazingly beneficial and a big step for them.

TCC

My partner and I have bought a house

Yes, we do indeed like to do everything all at once! We put an offer on the house in May and it just so happened that we signed just after I’d finished my job. We got the keys and started renovating it pretty much immediately. A week in and it’s a bit of a building site but it’s getting there. We’ve had amazing help from family which has made me less anxious and made it more enjoyable too. Here we are outside our first home together… And me with my ecstatic face and weird neck thing…

house

I’m transitioning in my medication

Definitely the wrong time to be transitioning but it will test if the 100mg of Sertraline are working! Relying on them a bit more as I’ve managed to sprain my ankle so no running to let off the anxiety. Does anyone else feel really tired on Sertraline? It’s making me feel quite sluggish and woozy. My stomach is in a constant state of butterflies, my mind is whizzing 100miles an hour and it’s not slowing down.

There are definitely some BIG changes going on but I’m trying to power through and keep as calm as possible. Really enjoying my new role so far (it’s only been a week!) but the drive makes me rather anxious. I hate not knowing where I’m going and what lanes I need to be in. Sounds daft but I obsess about it. I’m getting slowly better and keeping calm while I tackle it!

Also, I decided to share my story with Hafal and Mental Health UK about my mental health and my relationship with money. Pretty terrified about the reception it will get but if it helps people and makes them feel reassured, it’s worth it. Link to follow when it’s uploaded!

 

 

 

‘Locked door’ approach to mental health from employers

A survey carried out by Rethink Mental Illness has found there’s still prejudice/discrimination when it comes to employers hiring people with mental health issues.

According to the charity, the figures show:

  • 68% of employers hiring someone with severe mental health issues worry they won’t fit into the team
  • 83% of employers would worry someone with a severe mental illness couldn’t deal with the pressures of the job
  • 54% of employers surveyed wouldn’t know how to support someone with schizophrenia

The one that really made for eye-opening reading was:

“Only 43% of all people with mental health problems are in employment, compared to 74% of the general population.” – Rethink Mental Illness survey 2017

How can society do this to people who have illnesses they can’t help? Would they do the same to someone with a broken leg? The problem is, many employers aren’t sure how to deal with people who suffer mentally. Do you treat us differently? Do you treat us the same but keep an extra eye out?

Recently a lady in the US tweeted about how she needed to take a ‘mental health day off’ and what her boss’ reaction was. Read the article here. It went viral because he responded in such an accepting way and thanked her for reminding everyone of the importance of mental health sick days.

Email resposne

(Courtesy of metro.co.uk)

 

Programmes like Time to Change (of which I’m a Champion – Read my story) are helping to end this stigma and also helping organisations to understand what to do when someone needs help. Years ago, I faced discrimination and not great treatment after I was diagnosed with depression. I was made to feel bad about myself, the work I was doing and the fact I didn’t wear make-up to work to ‘make myself more presentable’.

All of the above is why I got involved and became a Champion. I’m proud of how far I’ve come in my career despite my mental health not always being up to scratch. Being accepted by colleagues and in fact, respected, really helps. I was thanked by someone who’d been having mental health issues for reassuring her that there’s no shame in talking about it. Because there isn’t.

For those who won’t hire someone with a mental health issue, thank you. You make us realise how awesome and how much potential we have. It might knock us down initially but when we find the right organisation, it builds us up bigger and better than before.

If this has happened to you, keep going. You can beat this and find the right job for you.

Stay positive 🙂