One week in early July 2015 it all unraveled at an alarming speed. The beginning of the week I started to doubt myself, work in particular, suddenly I was very anxious, the tears and the fear of my abilities flooded my brain. I felt paralysed. I had a work mentor at the time who was probably the first person to notice, one conversation with him (with me fighting tears the whole time) was enough to make me realise that I had to start back on medication otherwise I would be right back where I started.
He also suffered and suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, he is someone I admire, he’s successful, smart, well-liked and I could never imagine him feeling the way I felt, he always seemed so sure and confident. He made me see that I wasn’t a failure by going back on medication, that there was nothing to be ashamed about and thank goodness because within two days I was a complete mess.
I had an important exam coming up that weekend, and by Friday I’d barely slept all week and probably hadn’t showered in two days (one of my earning signs). In desperation I went to the doctor, and again my usual doctor wasn’t there. The process was the same, the K10 quiz, (I was pretty bad again, but no suicidal thoughts thankfully). He was in a rush to get me out of there, so made no adjustment to the dosage of my medication (which, by the way I had self-lowered the previous year) but he did give me sleeping pills so that I could thankfully get some rest before my exam the next day. (which I did rather well on in the end!)
Finally Getting It Right
Two weeks later I went back to the doctor, and I finally saw my own GP. After a mild scolding I got the help that would work for me. Firstly the good news was that my K10 score was up, which is a positive sign. Secondly she tweaked my medicine, I didn’t want to rely on sleeping pills so she prescribed a second antidepressant for night time. Thirdly, she managed to get me in into Procare Psychological Services who focus mainly on Cognitive Behavior Therapy. She pulled strings for this, as she only had a limited number of free passes but she managed to get me 6 sessions for free.
My counselling started off weekly, and when I first went I was a mess, physically I was hunched over speaking to the floor and I’d often cry throughout. In the meantime I was also experiencing extreme highs and lows, one particularly bad low was having a panic attack in a meeting, having to hide in the toilet before being sent home. Luckily though I had an extremely supportive workplace, my boss, mentor and work mates all supported me so yes I felt embarrassed but I also felt so thankful that I had people around me that really cared.
After that episode my medication was lowered, within a week people noticed a difference, my work improved and my mood was more “normal”, I no longer had the ups and downs. By this time I was at the end of my counselling and I could now confidently wear make up in my sessions! One of the biggest things I learnt in that was the understanding of thought not being reality. This is basic to most people, but my brain took any thought as reality so any negative thought caused an emotional response. She taught me to go, “I am having the thought that….” suddenly those words caused my brain to go “wait what?!” it disengaged the emotional response completely. I feel like the counselling was a key missing ingredient when it came to my healing process.
Exercise and diet play a large part of remaining head healthy, so I try and keep a regular gym or running schedule (although at times its sporadic). I also try to keep a balanced diet, and in the past year I’ve developed more interest in branching out in my cooking, trying new recipes and then making meals for my friends. I’ve found that it’s confidence boosting and it helps me focus on the right now.
I love parties and socialising but to properly recharge I need to be alone. My bedroom is my sanctuary, it’s important for me to spend time alone reading or watching TV with my cat Louis. Without it I start to feel grumpy, which leads to stress and anxiety.
So What Happens Next?
I am still on the same dosage that I was adjusted to in October last year, I’m in no hurry this time. I do feel that I am in a strong place and will look at lowering it the next time I visit my GP. If possible, and it’s highly likely in my case, I plan on one day being medication free.
If you or anyone you know needs support for any mental health issues, please make sure you contact your doctor or health professional. You do not have to live in darkness x