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.

Mental health at work: Why it matters

For so long, so many of us struggling with our mental health have tried to keep our issues well hidden. When asked why there’s unaccounted time-off on our CVs, we’ve simply put it down to ‘taking some time out to develop much needed skills’. If asked at interview if adjustments need to be made for any reason, we’ve shied away and shaken our heads to confirm that no, we don’t need help or support. And this is fine.

However, should we, in this day and age, be hiding our mental health conditions away like diseases we don’t want people to catch?

Courtesy of Mind

Blogging for Mind about mental health at work

When I was starting out in my career, I went at it full force, nothing was stopping me, I could work 24/7 and nothing affected me. Then the paranoia started; were people at work talking about me? Were they doubting my ability to do my job? Did they know I was struggling? Then the Glandular Fever happened and then came the downward mental health spiral.

At interviews for future jobs, I didn’t mention my mental state to anyone. I thought it would jeopardise my career and I already had a low opinion of myself and compared myself to everyone else. Everyone else looked shiny and professional and I was falling behind and falling apart. When I eventually had to tell someone I was struggling with depression, it was dismissed like I was making it up. I needed a doctor’s note as ‘proof’. Then I was given verbal warnings and given the choice of ‘getting better or leaving’.

This shouldn’t ever be a position that someone should find themselves in.

Since I’ve received a diagnosis and been more open about it, the shame is starting to disintegrate, although I do still worry about it and whether employers see me as weak. However, after blogging for Mind and having an amazing response, there are so many people out there being discriminated against for their mental health and IT’S NOT RIGHT.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you tell your employer about your mental health condition but if you do decide to and they treat you badly or differently, it’s discrimination and YOU HAVE RIGHTS. Read more about these on Mind’s website here.

Here are a couple of pointers that might help to start you on your way:

  • Sit down with your Manager in a quiet and calm space
  • Take deep breaths and remember why you’re telling them
  • Speak slowly and don’t feel pressured to rush
  • Be honest and explain what’s happened and what’s going on
  • Let them know you decided to tell them because you’d value their support
  • Ask if there are any adjustments that can be made (if you need them – Have things in mind, for example, starting work later in the morning if you struggle to sleep at night or if driving at rush hour makes you edgy)
  • Thank them for listening and for being supportive

Your Manager might want to talk to HR about your chat so they can get support themselves if needed. Not everyone will know how to help you so they might need some input. All the better if it’s going to help you in the long run.

There’s an interesting article here on Psychology Today about anxiety, stress and mental health in the workplace.

In the end, sharing the state of your mental health and your condition is entirely up to you. No one else. If your workplace is still stigmatising mental health and you don’t feel comfortable disclosing it, you don’t have to. However, if you do want to share, your employer should be open to listening.

 

 

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.