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:-
- Shoot the damn dog by Sally Brampton.
- 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 💕.