What you don’t see – Part two

So can I firstly start by saying, thank you so so much for your awesome response to part one of my story, I had not really imagined how well my words resonated with you all here and across the world.  

After I posted it, I received numerous chats from strangers and friends alike who mentioned how much they have been going through similar situations throughout their life, how we are all united – how we all fight or have fought our way through it.
I think I delayed part two for a few days because it’s a hard one to write, definitely harder than part one – it still feels quite raw.  But here goes …

My visit to the GP was an emotional one, my Mum accompanied me, we discussed how I had been feeling and how my thoughts had led me astray, thinking the world would be a better place without me in it.  My lovely Doctor had said she had been waiting for this to happen because no matter how many times previously she questioned me I would say I was fine, nothing was wrong, but she knew like all the others close to me,  I was on the path of self destruction.

Some of us dont even realize we are depressed, or there are people like me who lived in denial.  I had never voiced how I had been feeling for fear of societal mockery or for fear of dismissal.

I was immediately put onto medication, initially I had Citalopram, this was just the start of many , also  I was referred to my local community mental health team as an emergency case, and was told someone would be in contact.

I remember leaving the Doctors that night needing my Mum to practically hold me upright as I was so sad, drained and I think, exposed would be the right word.

I took the medication as prescribed, and had the call from my Social Worker her name was Caroline she was really kind, gentle and softly spoken, she arranged that initially she would come to me as the aim was to provide intensive home support as an alternative to admission – I had begged them to reassure me that I would not be admitted, as I just couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from my family, as in my mind they were the only thing that kept me going.

The first visit, two people from the crisis team attended, we talked about everything and anything, from then on Caroline would visit two or three times a week, I still remained at work throughout this time, I can imagine some of you thinking well I couldn’t of been that bad if I could still get up and go to work, but genuinely work gave me a purpose, along with my own family, those happy, creative  confident little children I worked with, kept me going, it was my reason to get up, I worked with my amazing mum and best friends so how could I not be able to go to work when I had them getting me through.

I didn’t seem to get any better, the meds were upped and upped but still I remained in that horrific dark place – that then became even more horrific and even more like a huge black hole that I was at the bottom of looking up and still not seeing any light when I lost one of the people that I couldn’t adore any more if I tried – my Grandad (I have blogged about this previously)

This made everything worse – I was then referred to a Psychiatrist, and my home visits were then changed to visits to the mental health unit so I could see him regularly, upon meeting him I’m ashamed to say I didn’t like him at all, he was as he should be professional – but he was cold and spoke to me like I didn’t have a brain cell, now I may not be of high intellect but even though I was unwell I didn’t feel there was a need to speak to me like a child – he even spoke to me reeeeaaallllllyyyy sllllooowwwllllyyyy, didn’t listen to a word I said and I just recall that I knew there was no way he and I were going to gel…it wasn’t just me, Kev said to me as we left the room – in his words – that blokes a knob. 
He diagnosed me with severe depression, anxiety and PTSD, my prescription was changed to Fluoxetine as I had gone as high as I could on the previous drug and there was no no real change to my symptoms. This tablet however definitely changed me and not for the better, I became an insomniac for the first time in my life and developed horrendous anxiety, unlike anything I had ever experienced before, I did suffer from anxiety but not like this, this was out of control, an example of this was, Mum and I went shopping to our local Morrisons, I was pushing the trolley she was putting things in, suddenly I  couldn’t see her, she was no longer within my vision, and bang there it was, my heart was exploding in my chest , I was sweating, everyone around me were just blurry visions  and I stood there in the middle of the shop gripping the trolley crying, because at the age of 30 plus,  I couldn’t see my Mum, who bless her came running back  and soothed me, but do you know  I still can’t bear that shop – there was a stage where I wouldn’t go in, I can now but I still don’t like it.

The drug continued to take over my mind and body, At this point I had begun to question myself profoundly, beginning to believe that I couldn’t trust my body or my brain,  It was like my brain was programmed full of negativity, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t see a way of removing it.

I was desperately trying to be a really good Mum, because even before any medication, I had ingrained in my head that I must be a really good Mummy to my girls, I must not show any signs of illness to them – they deserved more, all because I was petrified that if all the people who were observing me on a weekly basis thought I was failing them or thought I was too mental to care for them,  they would take them away.  Obviously I realise now this would never of happened but at the time that was all I could see.

My Psychiatrist said I needed to have the dose made higher , this still heightened my senses so much so they were uncontrollable, one evening the girls were in bed, Kev was in the shower, I sat on the lounge floor with the sofa propping me up and did my usual – cry but I was crying hysterically, and then rocking to soothe myself, Kev came down, and faced with this rocking snotty mess I think even he was defeated, no amount of hugging me, telling me I would be ok was going to work and he called for back up in the form of my parents, who lived a few steps away.

They came in,  scooped me up – I had one parent on each arm and they walked (I say walked but it was more of a march) me across their fields I was still crying hysterically and stating I was useless, I had let them down etc etc, Mum was making me drink water like it was going out of fashion and we continued to walk, we walked and walked until I had calmed down, which in time I did, and then became slightly saner.

This episode meant another trip to my least favourite person in my least favourite place, I dreaded going there because as I entered the building during my  previous visit, a poor lady around the same age as me was being made to get into an ambulance obviously she was not wanting to do so and thought I should go with her so grabbed my arm so tight and wouldn’t let go -it  took two people to get her off of me and my heart broke for that poor woman.

As I sat in the waiting room, with so many different walks of life, so many poorly people, I thought we are all here for the same reason, we are all mentally unwell, how many other people has been told to try medication one after the other or there worries dismissed, the thing is the resources were stretched, Doctors/ Psychiatrists were so so busy so many people to see, with the added strain of Emergency cases, I think like me most people just want to be listened too.

Still it was decided yet again,  that was not the drug for me and we would try me on Sertraline, I remember Kev asking if I should be weaned off the Fluoxetine and being told no just let’s try her on this new one and add in a sleeping tablet,  the psychiatrist assured him that they were addictive and that this combination was perfectly normal.

About 4/5 days into my withdrawal from the one drug and whilst taking the newest one Sertraline I became so unwell, I was desperate to relieve the physical tension the overwhelming anxiety was causing me, my heart would race and felt like a drum in my chest day and night, pounding hard. I became completely and utterly paralyzed, it was at this point I couldn’t leave my bed, My parents looked after my gorgeous girls and Kev looked after me, I lay there sweating, my stomach griping in pain, intense muscle spasms all over my body, my mouth constantly dry – I remember both of us being up all that night Kev mopping my sweaty brow with a cold flannel and providing me with endless cups of tea. 

That night was without a doubt right up there in my top 10 of worst nights ever.

But it was from this that that there was a massive turning point in my life, here began the pathway of the journey back.

I cannot imagine the torment my husband and my parents went through whilst I was ill, looking back it must of been utterly horrific, and that night broke us all, all I had wanted, was to try and get better, I had listened to those who knew best and it didn’t feel I was getting anywhere, I definitely wasn’t improving.

A lovely friend of mine – who too had suffered badly with mental health issues had previously told me how she has started  her road to recovery, she had done so well and I remember thinking then how she had come so far and looked so much more like her old self , she had been fortunate enough to have private healthcare which enabled her to have private treatment within the private sector.  It was the morning after that awful night – that I was sat in my parents kitchen when my Dad said to me I can’t bear to watch you like this anymore, I want to see if we can get you into where your friend went, we will use our savings and if I have to I will sell my JCB (Excavator), you can’t keep going from tablet to tablet there has to be a better way than this.  My Parents have worked incredibly hard their whole lives for all that they had, my brother and I were very lucky throughout our childhood we were and still are very loved.  That moment with Dad will stay with me forever.
That day my Mum rang my GP, I recall they argued slightly – with the Doctor saying I should keep on with the meds my Psychiatrist had told me to take, and Mum giving her the harsh reality of what would happen if I continued the way I had been.

A few minutes later there was a fax referral from her, and maybe it was a couple of hours later I had an appointment two days later at The Priory Hospital in Bristol. 

We made the trip via train (my Dad accompanied me on every visit) as it was the easiest mode of transport for the pair of us, when we got there, I was amazed by the still and calmness, I do recall however looking around at various people and thinking how poorly they looked I even said to Dad ” Dad they look so ill”  and I felt like a fraud – in my eyes I didn’t look as unwell as them, but to the world around me I was just as unwell if not worse.
I met with my new Psychiatrist, he was great he treated me like an actual person not an imbecile – he listened to me, he spoke in a normal manner, he was as kind and as gentle as Caroline (social worker) had been.

I felt totally at ease, we talked about why I was there, how I was feeling and how we were going to manage my mental health,  firstly I was going to start by reducing then stopping the medication I was currently on,  then commence with a new one  – Duloxetine. I also had to attend some weekly therapy sessions and to visit him monthly.

It was hard coming off of the last drug but was made easier by  gradually reducing  it rather than cold turkey as before, the new meds did seem to work over a period of time, it felt like the fog was lifting, the therapy sessions were amazing – enabling me to put various coping mechanisms into place as and when needed.  Finally I could see an end to the darkness and begin to get the old me back.

I have always loved reading – but during my recovery I read, and as strange as it sounds I read loads of biographys of people who had had depression and come through it, It really helped to read people hitting their darkest hour and then coming out the other side – the two that stick in my mind for really giving me hope of better days are:- 

  1. Shoot the damn dog by Sally Brampton.
  2. Sunbathing in the rain by Gwyneth Lewis.

It was reassuring to read that life may take you off course but you can and do eventually rejoin the human race, I felt like I could empathise with all that they had written.

I won’t lie my recovery took some time, I continued on the Duloxetine for around 3/4 years, I had weekly counselling, again this was for a long period of time around 18 months consisting of EMDR, CBT and talking therapy, I continued to see the counsellor up until 2015 as and when needed. I wouldn’t say I am completely cured there is still the odd day when my anxiety will rear its ugly head, but the majority of the time I can mask it, and of course I have down days – it’s just about learning to manage them best I can.

Now I do realise that not everyone is as blessed as me to have private treatment and yes I was incredibly lucky,  but there were more issues that I encountered in my first mental health unit – worse than I have written about but don’t wish to share – things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.  All things I’m sure that other people also had to endure and it makes me so sad to think by paying for my treatment I received second to none care, I wish we were all made to feel as I was –  in both the NHS and Private sector, sadly though the NHS doesn’t have the funding or the resources, also within the NHS I guess it’s the luck of the draw – because I know there must be so many people who have had the best care and brilliant experiences, I’m so happy for you! But I found my experience with them very clinical, I was constantly unheard, with a quick, cold turnaround.

Around the time I was unwell, the NHS was under a lot of financial pressure due to the £1 billion spending cut issued by the government. The number of cancelled operations from April 2011 rose to 250 within seven months and the number of casualty patients left waiting for a bed for more than four hours doubled. If physical care was spread thin, it was inevitable that treatment for mental health would follow suit, so many people waiting for treatment or to be heard. We are unbelievably lucky to have the NHS, but more people of all ages are becoming ill as a result of the pressures of modern life.

Even now in 2017 Mental health services are so overwhelmed by soaring demand, there are patients whom are facing long delays to access the care that is so desperately needed, in a new report by NHS Providers, which represents almost all of England’s 240 NHS hospital, mental health and ambulance trusts. The report concludes that children, older people and people in a mental health crisis too often receive inadequate care for conditions such as anxiety, depression. 

We all need to write to our local MP’s to highlight the problem of long waiting times for counselling , if treatment was available sooner I know that so many of us would not sink to such depths which brings me to say that please please talk to someone about how you are feeling, a family member or a friend.

The more I talk to people the more I realise just how many people have suffered in silence. There is no shame in having a mental illness, it is an illness, you don’t feel ashamed for being ill normally so why should it be any different for having a mental illness.

With the right help and support there is light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes the light might flicker but you will have the skills to get on the right path once again.

Massive love to you all and thank you so much for your ongoing support 💕.

ASIBTAF xxxx

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What you don’t see – Part One

This Tuesday was World Mental Health Day, and I guess I’ve been deciding whether or not I wanted to share my Mental Health Journey with so many!

I have thought long and hard about this and decided it can only be a good thing to show that you can hit rock bottom and you can come back from it, though when I went through it – I tried so hard to keep it from people around me.

Looking back I probably have had a touch of depression going right  back into my teenage years and then another spat around the time I was due to get married, I think then I put it down to stress, or I blamed my hormones, it was at this time, I tried medication which I think helped, but I remember not staying on it long as there was such a stigma attached to mental health that I think being a newly wed, buying and decorating a new house I put all of that behind me, I remember being really conscious that after having Maisy, that I didn’t want to show any signs of it coming back or even to allow it too, I had survived a horrendous birth with her – so I think I was just so grateful we were both alive that life was ok.

It was in 2010, three years after the birth of Ruby my second child, that my life took a downward spiral, to most I acted and looked like the same Kirsty.

Kirsty – Kevs wife (he’s been by my side through thick and thin), Kirsty – Maisy and Ruby’s Mummmy, Kirsty – Deputy Manager of a thriving Nursey Pre – School, Kirsty daughter to Guy and Mary (my absolute rocks throughout this time, and always). Kirsty – Michaels sister (poor boy lol).

I was trying to be all of those Kirsty’s and not show that inside I wasn’t coping, now if you have been kind enough to follow my blog you will know that Ruby was/is a poorly child, she took up a lot of my time and a lot of my focus, it was around this time that she received her diagnosis, this was such a relief to me because I had been so strong for so long pushing for someone to listen to me, though the diagnosis took the pressure off of me – it also left me exhausted, washed out and really really low, it had drained all life out of me.

I put on a brave front or what I thought was  a brave front did everything as normal, running a home, looking after my family, working and still doing social things. So many people will have a pre conceived image of someone with Mental Health issues, that we could be unwashed,unkept, we don’t leave our beds, we neglect those around us – and this simply isn’t the case.

Depression comes at you in so many various ways, it is more than just feeling sadness all the time, symptoms vary in type, duration, number and severity – you can feel sadness, lack of enjoyment, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, tiredness, change in eating habits, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, sucidal thoughts. 

I know how it is to feel all of this, and no I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, Each day would be as if I were on autopilot – get up, sort the children, go to work, cry with my mum before work started (we worked together), I would cry because I felt so sad, so tired, and like the whole world hated me, then work the day, then children, tea, be with Kevin.

I am the first to admit, I was a nightmare to live with, if you were close to me watch out,  my emotions were mixed, sad, happy, grumpy, irrational at this point I was still in denial that anything was wrong, so yes I would cry to Mum, she would constantly tell me that she thought I was unwell and maybe I needed to see a Doctor, to which she would of probably got a short, sharp reply.
I did not have Mental Health issues – I was just tired (well that’s what I was constantly telling myself )until …

We went away to Cornwall only for a couple of days –  Kev, the girls and my parents – I remember it as clear as day (sadly).

I had lost weight both my Parents and Kev were worried, My moods were up and down, more down but I remember us having a lovely few days the girls were happy, when I felt really low I only really wanted Kev or my parents, so this was perfect to me – I was always normal for my girls never shunning them and always giving love and affection to them – showing the world I wasn’t ill I was still a good Mum, no matter how unwell I felt in my mind I had to be a good Mummy as they deserved nothing less.

My parents had to leave a day early than us, and what’s the big deal in this? I would see them the next day as we lived next door so why was it breaking my heart? Why did I sob so hard on my Mum that I thought my heart would break, I literally didn’t want to let her go..it was because I had hit rock bottom – the lack of hope had become inescapable – all I could see was blackness.

Kev said we needed to go for a walk to blow away the cobwebs, it was a nice day, my parents had gone, so off we went it was a coastal walk, the girls chattering away – I was blessed I had a man who adored me, and two beautiful children, but in the moments that happened next I could not see that – all I could see or feel was that the world would be a better place without me.

I would hope no one ever has to feel that – I’m sorry if this upsets you for what I am about to write – some will say how selfish was she – how could she even think that – people who think like that are so selfish – by all means think what you like, but I was in a dark place I couldn’t see a way out of..

With Kev and the girls some way behind I walked towards the cliff edge, I then stood looking down at waves crashing onto the rocks and I thought if I just take one step out, I will not have to feel like this pain, this sadness, no one will have to put up with this disappointment of a person –  I felt like I had let every one down, I was so dispondant to life. 

Kevin took my hand – maybe he read my mind – and he led me away, he held me as sobs wracked through my body, there and then I promised to see a Doctor the very next day, and to admit to my Parents that they were right.

I have heard people say when someone has taken their own life – that it’s incrediably selfish but until you have been in that situation, where all you see is blackness and despair I would ask that we don’t judge. But I can also say that mental health problems make you incredibly self-absorbed (and I mean that in a non-value laden way, you literally become caught up in your own head and your own world and there is less space for others).

I can only imagine the hurt, the pain, the devastation that is caused by such an action such as taking your own life – but as that person who feels the world is better off without you, you are totally blinded by these overwhelming emotions that are in overdrive and you only have one focus.

My heart goes out to those families left behind, hearts breaking for their loss – never ever would I condone such an action, all that  I mean is we must take the time to look at the bigger picture.
So after agreeing that I would visit the Doctor to get help, in my mind – I thought the road to recovery would  be smoother than the path I had taken to get there.

How wrong could I be……

To be continued