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….

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, 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.

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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.

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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?

The amazing power of storytelling

This week is National Storytelling Week, a time to appreciate the power of people’s experiences and the stories they tell.

Many of us as bloggers are digital storytellers. We do it to help other people, share information and make a difference. Are these the reasons you do it?

I share my story to:

  • Show I’m proud of who I am
  • Get advice and support from people going through similar things
  • Provide reassurance that if someone is feeling alone, that they’re not
  • Feel relieved, almost a cathartic experience

For these reasons, I decided to share my story with BBC for Time to Talk Day. I spoke to the journalist, gave her the ins and outs of my mental health experience and then she asked if I would be filmed. Bearing in mind I hate the sound of my own voice, I decided to do it anyway. And also, considering how much I bang on about how sharing is important, how talking is important and how you shouldn’t be scared to tell your story, I was petrified.

The night before it went out I couldn’t sleep, my anxiety was through the roof and I felt sick. But I knew that it was the right thing to do. I think when you tell the world about things that are so personal, it is really daunting.

The interview I did with BBC is here (‘Living with a personality disorder’)

Me BBC

The result

As soon as the interview went out, I knew I had to send to my folks as they didn’t know the extent of things. They were really supportive and for the first time, we really talked about it.

Friends that I haven’t spoken to in a while got in touch, and close friends were just amazing, sharing the link and showing support. It went down better than I thought (not hard really as I thought that everyone would disown me and I’d go into a deep sulk  – Good old mental health!)

People I don’t know have been in touch to say that they feel reassured that they’re not alone in their diagnosis and some have said they’ve opened up to people they know. The last point is amazing and what I was hoping might happen.

Being a Time to Change Champion lets me tell my story to people and hopefully helps employers and their employees see that taking mental health seriously is really important. Storytelling helps social change and that’s something truly awesome and something amazing to be a part of.

 

 

What is Borderline?

Since receiving my suspected diagnosis from the psychiatrist, there have been some interesting reactions when I tell people that I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)(sometimes known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder).

A couple of the best ones:

  • ‘Does that mean you’re on the border of personalities?’
  • ‘Oh, is that like Bipolar then?’
  • ‘Are you, like, more than one person?’
  • ‘On the borderline of what?’

I’m sure anyone with BPD/EUPD has had some of these things said to them more than once. Having just been diagnosed, I find these quite amusing. For those who don’t know what BPD is, Mind write that it’s “a type of personality disorder. You might be diagnosed with a personality disorder if you have difficulties with how you think and feel about yourself and other people, and are having problems in your life as a result.”

Story of my life.

These are some of the things you can and I do experience:

  • Feeling very worried about being abandoned, and would do anything to stop that happening.
  • Having really intense emotions that last from a few hours to days and can change with a snap of the fingers (for example, from feeling very happy and confident to suddenly feeling low and sad).
  • Not having a real identity and not really knowing who you are
  • Finding it hard to have stable relationships and being reliable
  • Feeling empty
  • Acting impulsively (such as binge eating, drinking too much or driving dangerously).
  • Having suicidal feelings and thoughts.
  • Feeling really angry but not being able to or not sure how to deal with it.
  • Feeling so stressed that you experience paranoia or zone out completely.

For so long, I was telling my GP, mental health teams and other professionals that my moods were erratic and I was doing things to the extreme. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, didn’t belong and didn’t really know who I was. I changed who I was according to who I was with.

Now, and quite recently, I’m feeling so angry at things. I say what I think, I don’t hold back and am openly passive aggressive to strangers (when I hold the door for them and they don’t say thanks, I’m there with the ‘Oh, don’t worry about it’ sarcasm). I almost chucked my Mum out of the car the other day after she commented on my driving. It feels like I can’t stop.

More recently, I’ve been feeling like I want to cry all of the time. I keep pushing the feeling down into my stomach because I’m almost searching for the right time to let it all out. Blogging and talking about it helps to an extent but there are always those nagging worries, the anger, the lack of identity, feeling like everyone wants to leave… It’s hard.

However, I’ve been told that there are things I can do to help myself.

Thank you for reading. I feel like it was a waffly post and I’m really grateful for you stopping by.

 

 

Time to Talk 2018

A week today, Time to Change is holding its annual ‘Time to Talk’ Day which encourages people to speak out about their mental health.

tttd-960-x-9602For so long, having a mental health problem was seen as something you should be ashamed to talk about. You would never have dreamed of telling your family, friends or colleagues about it because they would see it as a weakness. But actually, as the stigma is being broken down, we’re seeing that actually those of us who can’t quite deal with our mental health, are warriors in our own right. It’s great that charities like Time to Change, Mind, Hafal/Gofal (in Wales) etc are encouraging conversations.

I read an interesting article on the Huffington Post about how people who have anxiety ‘perceive the world in a fundamentally different way’  As the article says, you can’t argue with science can you?

Time to Talk Day is an awesome concept encouraging everyone, everywhere and anywhere to take five minutes and ask how someone’s doing. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate but it shows that you care.

Coming to terms with my Borderline diagnosis has been an interesting journey. I was told in November last year and have been mulling it over ever since. I still find it strange to say that’s what I have and I feel almost relieved. I offered to be a case study for BBC for Time to Talk Day and chatting through my experiences all over again was still scary and did affect me. I had to ring my partner for a chat afterwards because he always cheers me up. Immediately, he asked how I was. It was that simple and it made me feel better knowing I could tell him about it.

I know that it might be tough reading for my partner, friends and family and I hope they understand. I want to be able to say what happened and help someone who might be feeling the same way or need an extra push to talk to someone. It’s sort of therapeutic and anxiety-filled all at the same time.

Telling someone something that you’re worried about is a terrifying thing. It can take months, years even, to almost break the stigma in your own mind. But, it’s worth it if it means keeping yourself and your mental health safe.

Next Thursday (1st February), make sure you use your five minutes at work, at home, or at a local community group, to ask how someone is. That question might help to save someone’s life or just make someone’s day.

Maybe it’s borderline — Re-blog from to aspie or not to aspie

I imagine this headline sung to the same tune as that age old Maybelline advert. Although I’m writing a lot about autism on this blog, I haven’t had my assessment yet and I still sometimes find myself analysing my symptoms and the equation coming back with borderline personality disorder or bipolar. Sometimes I’m so, so […]

Such a relatable and interesting post from To Aspie or Not to Aspie. Give it a read and follow her too. (Post here Maybe it’s borderline — to aspie or not to aspie)