Monday, 17 October 2011

mental health monday

This week has been amazing. Seriously.

We are making strides again. We are knocking down the trees of stigma! 
(Just after the October storm of 1987)

I knew there must be a few of you who understood depression and anxiety but I am so overwhelmed by the number of you really are with me. As horrible as it is to know so many of you are suffering isn't it nice to know you aren't alone? It is incredibly isolating. (I did start to write "can be isolating" but it just is and I am doing you a disservice by suggesting you aren't the one who is isolated.) No matter how caring your support network is or how similar a person's experience at some point you will feel alone. I just need you to know you aren't. I don't understand everything you are going through but I have a fair idea. Please talk to me. I know how hard it is to put those thoughts onto paper but if you find yourself in need I promise it will be one of the best and positive things you do. To share my experience is akin to others writing down their dreams and setting them alight in the hope they will come true. It sounds like my group therapy has turned me into a hippy but the sharing does feel like I am slowly dispersing my burdens into the miasma to be diluted by the vast expanse of the universe. (I promise I'm not a hippy - not that there would actually be anything wrong with that!). It feels good.

I know your natural defenses are screaming do not tell anyone. They will see you as a failure, they will think you are lazy, they will judge you. Yes some people will, and as hard as it is to see past that (we are so very good at catastrophising) they are not correct. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and myriad of other stigmatised illnesses are diseases. You don't choose to be that person. It is because you are ill. If someone does not accept that, they are wrong not you. You deserve to be heard. Please remember that. It has taken me at least 4 years to almost understand that. It is a constant struggle both internally with my judgmental self and those external forces who appear to be invincible but are in fact just cruel and misinformed.

And then onto the delicious 46 of you left a comment I am trying to respond to all of you personally but it will take me sometime. Your words mean so much to me. You are so kind. I know I can't say it enough. I hope that you know your outpouring of caring words is going to help so many others. Those who are too nervous to comment in such a public space. Thank you. 

I also must  thank you for the many emails I've received. Gosh you are such a wise caring bunch. I wish you could each see how similar all our stories are. Of course there are differences, we each come with our own history (some more benign than others) but there is a common thread. We want to get better. Even if you cannot see it right now, I see it. The fact that you reached out to someone else means that you want more. You want not to be crippled by your overpowering feelings of numbness or pain or anxiety. I see it. I am by far not well yet but I am getting there. I never thought I would be able to say that. Being in the depths of depression is almost comforting you can't feel anything so there is no expectation that life can be any different. As you make progress away or fall back towards the abyss you start to remember the happiness or just life you used to feel. Everything feels so far from your grasp it just compounds your thoughts of worthlessness. When I was numb I had no thoughts of suicide. I already felt I was dead almost inhabiting a husk or shell. However when I moved away from that, that's when I started to seriously consider suicide. It was evident that my life was pointless, there was nothing to live for and if I could have just have never been born it would have been perfect. As much as Bean doesn't like to think this, he is the only reason I have not met a incredibly violent end. 

So know that the road to health is more difficult once you start. You become aware of all you have missed out on and all that you could have achieved. For me that is far worse than being numb and in the thickest of fogs. I want to tell you this not to scare you into not seeking treatment but to forewarn you that getting better is not easy. There is no magic pill that will make everything better overnight. Indeed even the best anti-depressants take at least 4 weeks to kick in. I never used to think I would take medication. I like many other thought they were for the weak. Yet if you are an insulin dependent diabetic would you refuse insulin? Of course not, the biochemical imbalance will kill you so you take your medicine. Mental illness is no different. Yet you need to find the right medication I am on my sixth different tablet. That is a lot of trial and error. But you get there and then you find you can talk about it. The right medication and right therapy is the gold standard. Fight for it. You may not feel like fighting but you have to. I love the NHS but I do feel somewhat failed by it. I knew how to lie to appear better just so I could work but it was ultimately a foolish thing to do. However the doctors should have seen through my mask. It's what they are trained to do. I was ill and they should have seen that. Although I will add a caveat, we can be very deceptive. Someone trained to deal with people with mental illness should be able to find the right question to show us that we are not well but you should never think you are to blame if a friend as deceived you. We want to protect people around us. No-one wants their nearest and dearest to see how ill they really are. We are the consummate liars. It will never be your fault that you didn't notice how ill someone close to you is. Indeed if they take their own life and it feels like you should have known, it's just not true. 

My final note would be if you do suspect someone is suicidal please try and take them to see a doctor or just talk to them yourself. I assure you talking about suicide is not a trigger for the act. It's the first thing they teach you about suicide at medical school. I know it feels like it's the completely wrong thing to be doing but you being brave and talking about it will help them. It helped me.

So thank you. You make me happy. And that my lovelies, is a very good thing to feel.

P.S. Also in non blog news I got some really rather exciting news (I'm not pregnant) yesterday - things are looking up for anna. Huzzah.

Also this should have been posted yesterday but there be dragons ahead aka hard drive failures. Sad face.


  1. Another great post, Anna. I remember my doctor saying to me, "If you were anaemic, would you refuse iron tablets?" so completely empathise with this. I've been off work for nearly 4 weeks now. Their patience is wearing thin, whilst my guilt, confusion and frustration builds. Keep talking. xx

  2. The diabetic and anaemic similies are huge in helping people to understand.

    'People' wouldn't tell a diabetic to pick themselves up and that all they need is a good kick up the arse - they understand that there is a problem preventing them from making/using the pancreatic insulin, and that a good talking to won't replace that chemical. Yet there is less understanding for someone whose hypothalamus gland and serotonin levels are screwed!

    I also think the the phrase 'feeling a bit depressed' is banded about too easily whereas you wouldn't hear someone say they were 'feeling a bit hypoglyceamic today'.

    Great Post Anna x

  3. Great post needs to be said!x

  4. Anna! Congratulations on sharing wonderfully. As always. And on the soon to baby bean and the dummy!!!! Most excited for you. xxxxx


So, I really love all the sweet and/or informative comments that you lovelies leave. Yet if you feel the need to be unnecessarily rude or offensive I will delete your comment and not feel bad about it. So just be constructive alright! Hugs to all you wondrous others.


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