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.

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.

 

 

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

 

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! 

‘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 🙂