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 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.

 

 

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.

img_1671

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.

img_1657

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.

 

 

An undulating thing called ‘Life’

I would love to move through life much more smoothly,

Knowing for sure who I am & who I want to be.

Like anyone else moving patiently through life,

I’m always met with moments of heartache and strife.

The anxiety and depression, they come like waves,

They’re like taunting schoolchildren who will never behave.

The crashes of anger and the sadness it ripples.

These emotions tip up my scales and my balance, it falls.

The unknown of the tide is just one of the battles,

Once it takes hold it’s like nothing else matters.

And yet with the storm comes the surprising calm,

Which causes so many feelings of alarm.

For now, I’ll keep on fighting the continuous typhoon,

Hoping that the scales will rebalance out soon.

Thanks Daily Prompt: Undulate

Liebster Award 2018

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award for 2018. Never heard of it? Well, it’s a lovely system of recognising new blogs and celebrating ones that you engage with often. I’m really lucky to have been nominated (for the first time ever!) by Mental Health @ Home (definitely check out and follow!) so a HUGE THANK YOU!

What you have to do:

  • Link to the Official Liebster Rules (click here) in your Award blog post
  • Answer the questions given to you (if nominated, if you were not nominated you can use my questions)
  • Create more questions for your nominees to answer (The more unique and creative, the better!)
  • Comment on the Global Aussie (here) with a link DIRECTLY to your Liebster award (It makes it easier for the chaps to read them all!)

Questions I’ve been given from Mental Health @ Home:

  1. What is the goal and/or purpose for your blog? The purpose is to talk about my mental health, mental health news and give tips or support to anyone who might need it. It acts as therapy but also as a tool for getting to know more bloggers talking about similar things.
  2. How did you come up with the name of your blog? A bit of brainstorming here and there… I do love a good play on words.
  3. Name three things on your bucket list. I actually don’t have a bucket list. The world scares me somewhat but in 2018, I want to complete my Professional Diploma in Public Relations, read more books and see Les Miserables in London.
  4. What is your favourite quote and by whom? ‘She walks with storms in her heart, and battles in her eyes.’ – Nicole Lyons
  5. What are your favourite types of books to read and why? I like fiction crime novels but at the moment, I’m reading books about people’s experiences with mental illnesses. It’s so interesting and eye opening too.
  6. What is your favourite movie and/or television show? Favourite TV series at the minute is Criminal Minds!
  7. What is your best memory from the year 2017? Cheating a bit because I have more than one! Getting a new job, buying a house with my partner and getting a puppy!
  8. What did you learn from the year 2017? To try not to let what other people think of you, define you.
  9. What are your hopes and goals for the year 2018? Same as number 3!
  10. What is your favourite post you have written? ‘Mental Health, Money and Me’ – I’ve never written about my money struggles before so it was a biggie.

It’s nomination time…

Nominating just 10 blogs is always really hard because there are so many awesome bloggers out there. But my thinking is, if I nominate my 10, the next few people will carry it on and so-forth so everyone gets to celebrate. So, here are my 10:

  1. Emerging from the dark night
  2. Aspiette, to aspie or not to aspie
  3. Girl with the Paw Print Tattoo
  4. Braving Mental Illness
  5. Beckie’s Mental Mess
  6. Laina Eartharcher
  7. The Running Princess
  8. Andy’s Insights
  9. That Aspie Lady
  10. Rob Talks MH

My questions to you lovely people are:

  1. Three words to describe your blog
  2. What would you name your boat if you had one?
  3. Five positive words to describe you
  4. The most interesting thing you’ve read/seen this week?
  5. Favourite joke/pun?
  6. They’re creating a film (movie) of your life, who plays you?
  7. Favourite blog post you’ve read today & would recommend?
  8. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  9. Positive motto for 2018?
  10. Your top tip for finding blog-spiration?

I hope you guys have fun answering these and sharing these/your own questions with the blogging world! A MASSIVE THANK YOU AGAIN Mental Health @ Home (I enjoyed doing this!)

Liebster

 

Mental Health: How to start the conversation

I get told I talk a lot. I’m a prolific chatterer about everything and nothing. So, I decided to put this to good use and talk about something really important… mental health.

I became a Time to Change Champion to go out and talk to people about mental health and hopefully, help to break down the stigma. Sharing your own experiences to help others is really empowering and I’ve met some awesome people doing the same.

(Two awesome ladies I met through Time to Change celebrating my 30th with me ❤️)

I’ve been reading some epic blogs about it and think it’s really brave of these people to share. So thank you for doing that.

Did you know that just by writing a blog you could change someone’s life? Did you know that by asking how someone is can help too?

If you’re not much of a writer but want to help someone, here are some ways to start the conversation:

  1. Hi, how are you?’
  2. ‘How are you feeling?’
  3. ‘I know you’re not feeling so good right now but if you need to talk, I’m here’
  4. ‘Is everything ok? I’m here if you need me’
  5. ‘You’re not on your own, I’m here to listen’
  6. ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

Just letting someone know that you’re there for them can really help.

When I get really low, really angry or really upset, my partner always says ‘is there anything I can do to help?’ Most of the time, there isn’t but just letting me know that he’s there, really helps. Because of my Alexithymia, sometimes j can’t even tell what’s happening with my moods. But it’s nice to know someone cares and accepts me.

So this 2018, if you haven’t already, start the mental health conversation. It only takes a ‘How are you?’ to make a difference ❤️

Daily Prompt: Conversation