Over the years I have worked with and gained the care and support from GPs, support workers, therapists for different ‘treatments’ to help all aspects of my health. Over time, I’ve gained more confidence and learnt to be assertive at appointments. One of the most difficult appointments have been talking about my feelings with a counsellor and with my GP to help find an anti-depressant that suits and one of the even more tricky parts was safely tapering off anti-depressants and changing over to different medications. At present I am trying an SNRI medication. You learn over time and through some good websites about the different types of medications out there. So far I have tried 3 different types in combination with talking therapy. it has been scary changing medications, being worried about withdrawal and trusting things will work out better for me! Never feel uncomfortable about doing some research about diagnosis or medications before you see your GP and taking a list of things you want to say as you often become forgetful or have mind blanks by the time you sit with your GP. I even find booking in and giving my name at reception difficult at times.
There is not enough adequate and transparent information out there about taking anti-depressants. Having said that, I have not yet experienced any major side effects. I do look things up on patient forums and discuss my condition with other peers as its so important not to feel isolated. I see my GP every two weeks or have a telephone consultation especially when there may be a lot going on with my health. Don’t ever feel you are a hypochondriac. If you respect your body, mind and soul then see the health professionals when you need to. It is nearly a full time job just managing appointments and keeping track of things! Keeping a diary and note paper at hand for phone calls also helps to remember what was discussed.
I have also found that a good GP will not rush you, with really actively listen, give good eye contact and will ask you relevant questions before issuing a prescription. When I moved to Haslingden, I did some research and asked local people which medical practise was best and what there experiences were. it is frustrating waiting for appointments and getting past the receptionist to make an appointment. If the receptionists are friendly then you half way there!
You may have a care plan if you are seeing a psychiatrist and/or social worker/care co ordinator if you have been an inpatient and are now living back at home. Care planning is having improvements across some NHS trusts in the UK and I urge you to request a copy of your care plan and make sure it is reviewed and up to date. It is there to help you and your family to plan mental health care and other associated conditions and you are entitled to a well managed care plan.
You deserve the best care and having mental health challenges does not mean you should have less quality of care. Remember we are experts of our care. We know us best!
To cut a very long story short, my mother was severely ill with depression and psychosis since I was a child and I suffered massive trauma and negative experiences with mental health services since around the age of 9. The following 30 years, I have had a combination of different life changing experiences. One of the most difficult and head wrecking experiences was that I did not know why my mother felt suicidal and wanted to die and how vulnerable the illness made her. After all I was a child and she raised me on her own. She did her best parenting me and I am still here today, with courage, intellect and creativity. I would of liked things to be different but I have managed to channel my experiences into helping others and challenging the system when I can. Society is not easy! My mother now lives in a nursing home following a stroke in 2014 and has a good care team after many years of poor psychiatric and community care.
Around 2007, I became a parent and after a difficult labour I experienced what they call post natal depression which I didn’t recognize. At the same time, I became familiar with using social media and thought ‘I need to get help’ and found a good way of connecting with people on Facebook.
This was the start of finding services and people to connect with. I created a Facebook page ‘Making Mental Health Positive‘ and decided I would use the internet to create awareness and actively help provide peer support from home. The page now has over 20,000 likes and a few dedicated volunteers running it to help raise awareness, post uplifting content and so on. We also had an awareness ribbon to raise money and begin a community interest company called Recovery Castle but that did not work out as we didn’t have enough resources, energy and expertise.
One of the best experiences was doing a short speech at the Manchester Think Physical festival about Recovery Castle Community Group and how my passion for mental health awareness stemmed from my mothers suffering and more recently,mine. I am involved in a few advisory groups at the University of Manchester. I really enjoy these meetings and get a lot out of the work.
Over the years I found it useful to have a support network. I’ve met and lost different people along the way. I think we all need a support network despite our background and present health. I’ve made a list that may help and for something to think about for the future. Your support network could be humans and/or pets!
Who would you go to if you needed to…..
- Have a good time
- Have companionship
- Get encouragement
- To give you practical help
- Someone to guide and support you
- Help in figuring out and decision making
- Someone to help you understand why you are upset
- Someone who has a positive expectation of you
- Someone who accepts you for who you are
Notice how I have highlighted the last one. This is essential as we need to be around people who accept you and dont judge you. People that make you feel comfortable to be yourself are the best and most loyal.
You might find friends, support from community services and family can help you in different ways.
I relocated to East Lancashire in Rossendale in Oct 2016. An extremely positive move from my old surroundings in North Manchester. I came from a deprived area and after 8 years in the area I made the choice of moving over to a beautiful area called Haslingden and setting up a new home with my partner and my son. I left behind some bad memories and now I’m rebuilding lots of new ones and hopefully many more positive ones.
I found it stressful and was faced with more difficult emotions that I anticipated. My mood began to worsen. I couldn’t understand how a positive change could make me feel so bad. Having talked to my therapist it was evident that I still had some work to do about discussing memories from my childhood and situations that I had to live through.
Additionally, the transition of changing GP, mental health care and finding my bearings in the area have been challenging. Just before I moved I secured a job as a peer trainer in a health and well-being college in Pennine Care NHS, following a year of volunteering experience with Manchester MIND and studying for my degree with The Open University. I actually achieved my degree in November 2016 – I got an Open Degree with honours, 2.2 and met some extremely supportive students and and tutors. I thought it was not possible with all the health challenges, namely erratic mood swings and a new investigations and screening into a thyroid disorder.
While I was living in Manchester I had some family support from the Barnados Childrens Charity – Big Manchester. They also helped me with the move over to Lancashire.
I managed to find a good school for my son and he settled into his new school in November in time for his 9th birthday. That was priority as I wanted to ensure he was not anxious about his school move and made a good start in a new area. i wanted him to feel the oppositive of how I felt quite often and have the confidence to flourish in a new learning environment. So far the school have been brilliant and have pointed me in the right direction to support services in the area. I have even managed to find my local community centre and attended some craft groups when my son is in school. I have also applied to the school to help volunteer.
One of the most essential parts to our well being is the positive and loving relationships we keep with people and how open and honest you can be with people, especially if you manage a mood disorder or generally are struggling some of the time. I’ll talk about some of the feelings I have had in friendships and so on throughout my blog. My partner is extremely kind, supportive and has been there for me through some very difficult times. He has a wonderful family and for once in my life, I now have a family unit I always needed and dreamt of. I also have some amazing friends and if you are reading this, thank you for putting up with me!!
There are lots of good reasons to talk about your feelings. I love who I am and how I feel sometimes even though some days I feel different, or unusual, low or just not me! Some days I have felt suicidal…..I’m hopefully past that stage at the moment but lets see. Talking about suicidal thoughts is really important.
One of the main reasons I wanted to write a blog was for self-reflection and wisdom. It may help others too and that’s a positive thing. I can leave a legacy for others too and speak out for my mother who suffered for decades from severe depression.
Here are some areas I wanted to focus on in my writing:
- How I have managed relationships with my health professionals to look after my mind and body
- Why taking psychiatric medication is not to stay ‘ happy ‘ , it is to help you exist and function day-to-day
- The importance of peer support (being around like-minded people)
- Making therapy choices
- Learning about triggers and what can harm us
- Why diagnosis can be useful and not useful
- Understanding what keeps you well
- How depression can guide you and help you (yes hard to believe)
- Why my mother suffered more than she should have
- How thyroid disorder influences our mood