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….

Determining the Diagnosis

If you’re struggling to see someone and get the mental health diagnosis you need, you’re not alone. With 1 in 4 people suffering with their mental health, this is not uncommon.

The problems with getting a diagnosis include:

  • GPs having limited experience of mental illness
  • Waiting lists in the UK being overwhelmed with GP referrals
  • Some of the disorders present themselves as something else so can be hard to diagnose
  • Having a negative 8-minute consultation with the GP and not wanting to bother again
  • Not getting a concrete one

Having been in limbo for the past 20+ years of my life as to what was wrong with me and who I actually am, I’ve become almost obsessed with finding out. Weirdly, the obsession is something that’s helping me with my diagnosis plight.

After I hit rock bottom in October and saw my new GP, I was referred within six weeks to see the Community Mental Health Team. I was so surprised that it took such a short amount of time but so pleased that my plea for help was being taken seriously. The last time I was referred to the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) where I used to live, they sat with clipboards, studied me and when I told them about my episode of crashing my car they said I couldn’t make excuses for bad driving. You can imagine how I was feeling about seeing the CMHT this time around. Because we’ve moved, I now come under a different health board. Thank.Goodness. There’s been more progress in two months here than there has been in 20+ years with the other one.

In the time leading up to the appointment, I couldn’t sleep. I was grumpy, panicking, feeling sick and at the same time, felt so productive and totally amazing, I couldn’t complain. On the day of the appointment, I had been in two meetings at work and pretty much sped to the appointment (running late as usual). Sitting in the waiting room, I was twitching, biting the side of my cheek and feeling the sense of overwhelming foreboding that I wasn’t going to get anywhere.

The psychiatrist, turns out, was lovely. I took all of my proof of moods with me, my sleep patterns and any notes of ‘unusual behaviour’. She looked through it all, asked me lots of questions and listened to what I was saying.

After what seemed like a lifetime, she said she could rule out a few things but said that my moods and lack of control over emotions pointed to Borderline Personality Disorder or ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’. We talked about it and looked at the Mind website for a breakdown of the diagnosis. It seemed to fit me to a T. She did suggest that I also have a test for Autism, which has been suggested a few times by my counsellor too.

I came out of the appointment feeling confused. Relieved, that we’d put our fingers on it, scared, because this was something new and I didn’t know much about it, and still a bit unsettled. The psychiatrist changed my medication from anti-depressants to mood stabilisers, something I’ve been banging on about for years.

If you’re in that stage where you’re not sure what to do about your mental health and feel like there’s more to it than ‘You’re just having a bad day’ or a bad week, make sure you tell someone.

I’d suggest the following (although I’m by no means an expert!):

  • Keep a track of your moods, emotions etc so you have proof for your GP of how you’re feeling (A diary might be a good way of doing this)
  • Make an appointment with your GP and tell them what’s going on
  • Fill in the test they give to monitor how you’re feeling
  • Have a chat with them and see if you can be referred to see a mental health specialist
  • If you’re not opposed, trial the medication they give you and if it’s not right, tell them
  • Don’t give up!

Grandma's Special HerbsThe last one is the most important. Don’t just settle for what you’ve been told. If you don’t think that’s right, tell your GP. If the medication doesn’t sit well or you experience bad side affects, tell your GP. You have to do what’s right for you and make sure it suits you and works for you.

It takes guts to do it but I believe you can do it. You deserve it. You owe it to you to be able to live the life you’re here to live.

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!