Saturday, 13 June 2015
Help. It's There For The Taking.
In previous blogs I have talked a lot about the importance of seeking help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from any mental illness. As a result I have received some emails asking what sort of help I received. Can I say at this point that I am so pleased that people are feeling comfortable to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Not only does it give me direction for what people are interested in, but it indicates that those difficult conversations are happening. That we are opening up those channels of communication. That we are demystifying the topic. That we are shining the light on the secrecy. Woo! Hoo!
OK back to the help that I have received.
The first thing that helped was being diagnosed with depression by my GP. I knew nothing about depression. I wish I had. It would have made a difference. I had no idea of what was happening to me. All I knew was that I felt like I was imploding. That I had no control of anything in my life. The feeling that I was shattering into a million pieces. I was crying uncontrollably.
And I was frightened by the way I felt. Frightened of what was happening to me. Frightened of what I was feeling.
Once diagnosed I was put on medication. Many, many different types of medication. Like with many illnesses medication can sometimes make you feel worse before it makes you feel better. But you need to persist if this is what you need. In milder cases things like exercise, changing your diet, being mindful and giving yourself a break from stressful triggers if possible is all that is needed to turn things around. Diagnosis at least means you can start making a plan and therefore taking back some control in your life. It also means that you have started building your support system. Just like with every other illness, the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the treatment can begin and the better the outcome. Don't wait.
I was trialled on a variety of different medications. Many had side effects. Unfortunately, I became very ill very quickly and was hospitalised in an attempt to get the right medication and the right dosage. Being in a psychiatric unit will be a whole other topic for another day.
Over this and another two very lengthy hospitalisations my condition was still not stabilised so ECT began. Electro Convulsive Therapy (used to be known as Electric Shock Treatment) has a new level of stigma all of its' own. It is a last resort treatment where a brain seizure is induced in an attempt to release important hormones in the brain which are missing when a person becomes severely depressed. It is used when medication is unable to substitute these hormones. The average number of treatments required is between six and twelve. Some people find just one treatment results in a drastic improvement. I had over 50. Another topic for another day.
Eventually my condition was stabilised and then the counselling was able to kick in. From there, even though it was sometimes two steps forward and one step (occasionally 3 or 4!) back, I was always moving in the right direction. There were a few major setbacks like when my counsellor became ill and eventually died. We had formed a very close relationship and she had promised me that when she retired I would be the one client that she kept on. That wasn't to be. And even though she died over 2 years ago I still miss her and think of her every day. It took finding another wonderful therapist to help me come to terms with this loss. Interestingly, my first therapist came up as a suggested person on LinkedIn (which was weird in itself because technology was definitely not her strength!). And I sent a request to connect. Nothing weird about that. So, even though I haven't had a response yet, I think it is an indication that apparently there is LinkedIn in heaven.
And being loved and cared for helped.
So no matter how bad things get. There is help. It comes in all shapes and sizes. For me to stay well it includes exercise near the beach, yoga, spending time with family and friends, counselling, monitoring by my GP and psychiatrist and the knowledge that I will always be on medication.
And for each individual there is the right combination. It is there. I know it is.