Today, Tuesday 10 October is World Mental Health Day.
As part of my commitment to speak out about my mental health issues and tackle discrimination in our communities and the workplace I have the following to say.
I am a mental health social worker.
In February 2016, my mind and body ground to a complete standstill.
I had been running on empty for far too long.
I know now that I had deliberately avoided tackling something I did not want to accept, my depression.
It was a scary day when I walked into the GP surgery.
As a mental health social worker I was fully aware of what could happen if I really said what was going around in my head day after day.
I had gone through in my head what I would say, but within minutes I broke down in front of the GP. If I am honest, it was a relief, it was not as bad as I had thought.
In my experience sometimes we can work ourselves up to the point that we become paralysed with fear and subsequently, we don’t seek help.
For others, only you will know if and when you feel able to trust and open up.
I know there are many who have opened up and the response has been brutal, either with being bullied in school or being rejected by friends and/or family or simply being ignored.
After nearly 18 months since my breakdown it is already a hazy memory.
I can’t believe that my days were largely getting up taking my mediation, drinking some coffee, reading until I fell asleep, then waking up again and doing the same.
Day after day after day the same pattern.
(Note to employers, this is possibly one reason why workers off with depression may not respond to letters).
For those who know me, the idea that I could be so inactive is probably quite shocking but I had nothing left in me.
That is what Depression did and can still do to me.
I had ignored it and it gradually took over my life.
At this point I want to share a video made by the World Health Organisation it is called
“I had a black dog, his name was depression
I really recommend it because for me it sums up just what Depression had done to me over a long period of time.
Medication: Yes or No?
In my case I was initially offered medication which I declined, but on my second meeting I agreed reluctantly to take it.
I know I was lucky because I was also offered six counselling sessions as part of the whole treatment.
I do not like medication.
In my mental health work I have seen just how bad the side effects can be for some.
In some cases they add to the problems and often require more medication to counter the side effects.
But eventually I had to concede for the time being I would have to take Sertraline.
This was a big deal for me. Those mental health work colleagues who have worked with me would be surprised at this admission.
Yes, I had a number of side effects. Some stayed, some went away.
It took a long time for me to get used to taking medication every day and thinking ahead to remember to put in for a repeat prescription.
I have been to my GP surgery more times in the last 18 months than in the last 18 years.
But all the time I was thinking “when will I stop?”
I remember at a funeral of one of my childhood friends up north I was shocked by how many men admitted to taking anti-depressants. Many had been taking them for years and some felt they couldn’t risk coming off them.
I do admit, I have stopped taking the medication just for a few days, then started back on, just to see if I noticed anything.
I didn’t which sort of made me think I could stop.
However, in the last 18 months there have been some pretty bad times when the negative thoughts seem to flood into my brain.
When this happens I find myself asking “will this ever end?”
I do find myself trying to fight these thoughts, I try to distract myself, (not with alcohol) sometimes it works, sometimes I just let it wash over me and hope that I come out ok.
I found something that worked.
It may surprise some.
But I had my first holiday in over 7 years this summer. After spending time with Mum for her birthday in August I had a week on the ‘Riviera, the Yorkshire Riviera”.
It hit me hard but in a nice way. I was relaxing for the first time in what seems a long time ago.
Relaxing provided me with space for HOPE.
Without Hope, there is nothing and that is not a path I want to tread.
Today, Tuesday 10 October 2017 is World Mental Health Day and I am taking my last medication. I have been to my GP and we agreed a plan. I have been weaning myself off the mediation for a while.
Will I ever have to take mediation again?
I hope not, but I want to give it a try, and if it doesn’t work out there will hopefully be another time.
To everyone out there who has taken some time to read my ramblings I want to wish you a Happy World Mental Health not for just today but for the rest of your life.