Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The legacy of mental illness: Are you okay?

Firstly, apologies for the sporadic blogging of late. As you will know I've been busy campaigning with Team Princess and that took a lot of brain power so lately my head has been a bit spaced out. Just today I tried to bring up the app screen on a bar of chocolate. Maybe I shouldn't admit this on a post where I'm writing about convincing everyone my mental health is fine but oh how I laughed at myself. On a good note while my brain is fuzzy, on days where my health has allowed all my energy has gone into living life to the fullest that I possibly can. More on that in the next post. So I hope you'll forgive the absense. I hope to be back to a blogging schedule soon, because I do miss it. Anyway on with the post....

When you have suffered from a mental illness in the past the chances are you will feel haunted by it long past your recovery. Some how no matter how positive, happy and confident you become there is often a nagging in the back of your mind "remember me? This could happen again." And for all we know it could happen again. An addict will always be considered suseptible to weakness and retriggering a habit and so they learn to avoid temptation as much as they possibly can. However with mental illness, even those that were triggered by addiction, it's very hard to avoid circumstances that could lead you to be more suseptible again. As they say, you can't stop life from happening. Avoidance stratergies for non addicts is futile to a full recovery, because you are still living in fear and not fully overcome the issues that bought on your condition. However of course the more we open ourselves up to the world the more of a chance we may feel we have of giving all those past feelings a green light to come interupt us once more.

There is also the prejudice of having a history of mental illness on your medical records. Sometimes doctors will see that and focus too much on it. Even if your symptoms are physical and years could have passed since you have suffered. When I was admitted to hospital after collapsing and being pretty much asleep for 3 days back when M.E hit me, because it was relatively close to my serious bout of depression where I had gone to A&E a couple of times or been sent for psychiatric evaluations at the hospital (yes I know that sounds bad but it really isn't when you desperately want help) they could obviously see this on my recent medical notes. Because of this once they had ruled out things like meningitis they began suspecting it was of my own accord, that I had overdosed or drank myself into oblivion, or just shut myself off from the world. I had been to a Summer ball the night before I collapsed, so of course this lead them to believe the former even more. Even though I didn't have any alcohol or drugs either for that matter so they could obviously see that in my blood work. It also helps that the junior doctor actually knows the difference between 2 paracetemol for the pain in your neck and enough paracetemol for an overdose, rolls eyes. I had to be asssessed by a psychiatrist again, although all I needed to say was I was not suicidal that I had been having the time of my life then bam my physical health knocks me down. Luckily that was it and he probably felt like they had wasted his time. No matter what you say though, because that is on your records they are going to ask about it. It's going to be a line on enquiry, or possible diagnosis until they have more answers. And that can feel really unfair. It can be upsetting because you feel scared and overwhelmed by these physical symptoms and those you go to for help will in part think it's all in your head. To be fair they have not seen the progress you have made, or how happy you have been, but it still feels like a kick in the teeth. You want to shout " you know why I'm doing okay now? Because as you can see from my records I sought help."

I know that I have all the tools and tricks to lead a positive life now that I consider myself to be recovered. Making sure that I choose to be positive as much as I can and make opportunities happen. Not bottleing things up and being open about my feelings. However I also know that depression can take control even as I fight to keep it a distant memory and that's not because I'm personally not strong enough, because in all honesty I think I am. It's our brains chemistry. My most serious bout of depression and anxiety took me at a time where I should have felt elated. I couldn't really understand how it was happening. And that in itself is a scary thought. To not have control of everything that goes on in your head. Therefore I know all too well that these conditions can creep up at any time and that I am not unsuseptible to their power. However having suffered in the past as well as knowing that that is a part of me and one that has left it's scars, I also know the warning signs and symptoms to look out for and be able to get help much quicker should I need to. Most importantly I know that I have overcome this before, that I had the strength to do so and that that strength has improved every day that I live depression and anxiety free. I feel that should I ever suffer in that way again, and there's always that chance, that I could handle it. Of course if it does happen I don't really know how I will respond but knowing that until that time, should it happen again, I feel I could cope and come out the other side stronger is a great safety net. 

We never know what is going to happen in life and therefore we really don't know how we will react in certain situations that may crop up in our future. Of course sadness is part of life. It may or may not lead to depression. But we can't live in fear of feeling emotions and sadness in particular, because we need to experience release. Avoiding those feelings will potentially cause more chance of us being suseptible. Having feelings is no bad thing.  

So I would like to say that yes I have a history of mental illness. It took over my life in a way that scared and overwhelmed me. But how am I now? Honestly, stronger and happier than ever. I know how to keep myself in check and all the warning signs I should look out for. As well as what to do should they arise. I know that it's ok to feel sad, frustrated or hard done by, especially as I have a chronic illness that has left me predominantly housebound. I worried when I was first diagnosed with M.E that I would be a sitting duck for depression. I even visited my local Mind and booked an appointment with my former councellor. But so far so good. 4 years later and I only had that one counselling session to express my anxieties about being diagnosed with a chronic illness and the effect that might have on my mental health. In the last few weeks I've also finally been weaned off my anti depressants. I haven't really needed them for a couple of years but have kept on them due to the interaction of my other medication working well for sleep and pain levels.

So if I tell you I'm not feeling good today generally I mean physically and that is probably an underestimation for feeling absolutely shockingly awful. I don't mean I feel depressed or down. And if I did I would certainly tell you, so that I can get things off my chest. So don't jump to the conclusion that not feeling good means I feel down. Accept that I will tell you if I feel sad or worried. And I will of course seek help if I feel I need it. I know my situation means I could very easily get depressed with living with a chronic illness. However, I let myself get angry and upset when I need to, allowing myself to vent. It might seem mad to actually say I'm happy, happier and more confident than I have ever felt but it's true. And I am so very grateful for that. I really do not want to experience what I did again but if I ever do please ask me if I am okay and please listen to my anwers. I promise I'll be honest and I promise I'll get help.

Sian X


  1. A very brave post, well done for getting off the anti depressants. I too have a history of mental health problems and it makes it so hard to get other things taken seriously.

    1. Thank you Jane. You don't realise the effect they're having until you cut down or wean off them. Luckily I just felt more tired and a bit dizzier as I adjusted but at least I knew why and didn't panic. You're so right, especially with an illness like this where too many people say it's all in your head even without a history of mental health. But if you do then it's doubley hard. But we should be so proud of the fact we are doing much better and got ourselves through it. I try to remind myself of that a lot.