Time To Talk

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Today is Time to Talk Day, an initiative bought about to help end the stigma that surrounds mental health.

Suzi (2)
http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

I decided that Time To Talk day was something I wanted to get involved with as mental health is something I have had dealings with over the course of my life and the stigma that surrounds mental health has always created a barrier that has stopped me from talking about my mental health.  And this stigma seems to be really silly, we all  have mental health, whether it is good, bad or you never think about it.  I think it is time to start having the conversations about our mental health, just as we do with our physical health, we need to normalise all health issues to the same level.

So, today I am going to share with you my mental health story. (You can find other posts about my mental heath here)

On a Monday morning, back at the beginning of September 2018, I got up to get ready for work and I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t face the idea of getting ready or even leaving the house to go to work, I felt dizzy, a bit sick and really panicky.  I already had a routine appointment with my doctor booked in for that morning and I managed to leave the house and get to it.  I sat in the doctors waiting room and just didn’t feel connected to myself, it felt like an alien had taken over and inhabited my body.  I got called in to the doctor’s office and just burst into tears.  I told him how I was feeling and we went through a series of question and answers and he eventually told me that I had anxiety, stress and depression.  I was prescribed medication and given a note for 2 weeks away from work and asked to return to the doctor for assessment at the end of that fortnight.

Those first weeks away from work went by in a haze.  I got up, took my medication and either slept or lay on the sofa, I couldn’t carry out tasks very easily as my thought process was jumbled and everything felt too hard.  My concentration levels dropped which meant that I had difficulty in reading a book or even following a tv show.  I don’t know whether that was down to the medication or whether that was my brains way of shutting off in order to heal itself.  I told this to the doctor on my next visit.

I had a lot of side effects from my medication, from feeling too hot or cold, feeling sick, shaking, headaches, bad stomach, feeling like I was going to pass out, lack of appetite, I can’t remember them all now.  The worst was feeling really wobbly and light-headed all day, so much so, that I didn’t trust myself to get into the shower or have a bath.  I was really worried that I would fall or pass out but really needed a shower.  In the end, I had to ask a friend to come around and stay while I had a shower incase I did fall.

Over time my medication was increased as my anxiety levels were still really high and I went on to have further side effects from the medication which have now gone as my body has got used to the ingredients.

I still have problems, sleep is an ongoing issue.  Despite how tired I am and what I have tried, I am not sleeping very much day-to-day, but when I do sleep I am loosing nearly 24 hours as my body and mind try to catch up.  I have been referred to a mental health worker who will be working with me to improve my sleep soon, so hopefully, I will be able to sleep for a full night again.  I still feel anxious, worried and feel the panic start to set in but I have a few coping mechanisms which seem to work well for me.  I have had a few anxiety/panic attacks (you can read about the worst one here) but generally I am able to take control of them as I feel them coming on, distracting myself by doing something I enjoy seems to help a lot.

I have been off from work for around 4 months now and I can feel my old self starting to return.  My concentration levels are increasing and I’m finding that I am able to do more things.  I am finding myself enjoying things that I used to and am preparing to return to work.

I think that the main thing I want to say is that if you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or start to notice that your enjoyment in life seems to be shrinking then it really is worth speaking to a medical practitioner.  There is no shame to be had by saying that you are not ok, and seeking help for it.  I have also been blessed with having family and friends who I have been able to talk to and who have supported me through this period of time which has really helped me, whether it has been a phone call to ask how I am, a text or a visit, going shopping or cooking for me when I have been unable to, having a support network has really aided me along the way.

If you need to talk, there are lots of places you can turn to and a host of on-line support available as well as groups that meet in person, to find out what is available to you in your area Google is a good place to start.

And if you ever need someone to talk to, you can always drop me an email – my.colourful.life@outlook.com.

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Mental Health and Me – An Update

I spoke last month, in my mental health update here, about wanting to return to work in February and issues that I still had that were hindering returning to work, namely my problems with sleep.  At the time of that update I was waiting for a referral to some kind of therapy programme which may help me with my sleep issues.

I have now spoken with a member of the mental health team who went through an assessment with me and had a lengthy conversation about my sleep.  We spoke about how I wanted to return to work as I was feeling much better emotionally and how frustrated I am that sleep is now the biggest problem for me.  We identified some possible reasons why I’m having trouble sleeping including worry about returning to work (how it will affect me, what will happen when I’m back at work, others attitudes to me, as well as the general anxiety around my return), that my brain may not be getting enough mental stimulation now I’m getting better – a sign that returning to work would be good for me, how I am going to cope at work and having coping mechanisms in place, as well as anxiety about getting back into a work routine and balancing my work/home life.

We spoke about medication and the option of increasing the dosage during my return to work phase and seeing if that will help with sleep, and we spoke about having a key worker who would work with me 1 on 1 with issues I may have.   I said yes to both, so now I need to return to my doctor once the assessment has been recorded in my notes and request a dosage increase and wait for a letter regarding my key worker.

I have also been referred to Occupational Health by my manager so I can have a chat with a medical practitioner with regards to returning to work and what things work could put in place to support me in returning including a phased return which my manager suggested.  I have the appointment on Tuesday.

In all, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about everything.  I would have liked to return to work this past week but realise that there are certain things that need to be done before I can return.  I also think that implementing a phased return would be really helpful as it means I would be returning gradually and I won’t be feeling so overwhelmed by it all.

I will post an update once I have seen the Occupational Health practitioner and know what is going on more!

Mental Health and Me – An Update

I wrote about my anxiety/panic attack around a week ago and since then I have re-visited the Dr.  I spoke in my last update, (back in November), about how I wasn’t sleeping very well.  This is still an ongoing issue.  A lot of the time I feel too awake to sleep and yet to asleep to be fully awake, it’s affecting my thoughts and reaction times, my emotions, mood, energy levels and levels of motivation.  And if I’m honest, it’s really starting to piss me off.

I have spoken to the dr’s that I have seen about not sleeping, the first thought that upping my dosage of sertraline from 50mg to 100mg per day would help, the second one spoke about sleep hygiene and other lifestyle things (like no caffeine of an evening…), the 3rd dr I saw said it was likely due to the increase in my medication and to just “hang in there” and as my body gets used to the dosage then my sleep should return.  And it felt like no one was really listening to me, like they were all offering ideas and things but nothing to really get to the root of the problem.

You see, I don’t drink coffee of an evening, in fact, I now really only have 1 or 2 cups a day and that is in the morning, I go to bed when I’m tired, my room isn’t too hot or cold, there is a supply of fresh air into the bedroom, its dark enough in my room, its quiet enough, I don’t watch tv or play games before I go to bed, I don’t have harsh lights on in the bedroom… I’ve tried having a warm bath before bed, a hot shower, a warm drink (like herbal tea or hot choc), I’ve tried leaving all the house lights off as its getting dark and going to bed when the natural light has faded, I’ve tried essential oils, Ive tried meditation, reading, not reading, just lying there doing absolutely nothing, and still I can’t sleep.  And when I do sleep, it’s either a few snatched hours here and there or I lose a whole day because it’s almost like I have passed out from lack of sleep to the extent where I will sleep through alarms and my phone ringing.

And so, the last doctor I saw, a few days ago, sort of bore the brunt of my frustrations, maybe because I had been awake for 2 days straight, but I think it was more to do with being so frustrated with not being able to sleep, and I told her exactly how I was feeling.  I want to go back to work, emotionally I’m feeling a lot better than I was, but how can I return when I’m not sleeping which means I can’t think straight, have this awful brain fog a lot of the time, end up sleeping through whole days and just can’t seem to do anything without it taking a lot of concentration and planning to do so.

And she was lovely.  She really seemed to understand where I was coming from and all the intricacies involved with not sleeping and we went through several ideas to try, as well as referring me to therapy to see if we can overcome this problem.

I’ve got until the end of the month off, the doctor said that it would give the therapy team a chance to sort an appointment (or appointments) out for me and hopefully I can return to work in february.

I left the drs feeling a bit of relief that my lack of sleep was being taken seriously by someone.  The other drs, though they had been good, I don’t think that they had really understood how not sleeping was making me feel or even quite how bad it has become.  And in all honesty, I feel that it was down to me and not explaining it to them well enough for them to understand that it’s not just a case of not sleeping every now and again, that it’s a constant thing that is getting worse as time goes on.

So, I’m feeling a bit better with the outcome and just have to wait for an appointment to be made with the therapist and see what happens then.

Mental Health And Me – An Update

This is the first update about my mental health since writing this post, and in the time between that post and this I’ve been to the doctors for a medicine review on the 22nd November.  Thankfully some of the symptoms that I had when starting my medication (Sertraline 50mg) have subsided, the sick feeling still comes and goes but isn’t a persistent feature of day-to-day life, the hot and cold feelings have gone, and the dizzy spells are getting less and less which is good.

I’ve now developed insomnia, which I do get from time to time but never like this, over the space of a few weeks I have not been able to sleep for more than half an hour at a time if at all which is really starting to get me down.  The flip side to this is that when I do sleep, I can sleep for the whole day which has happened a few times now (the latest being sleeping through the whole of sunday 25th November).

I have still been feeling anxious and still have these anxiety attacks along with panic attacks though I can not identify a reason why, perhaps if I could then I would be able to stop them?

I spoke with the dr about all of this, he said it may help to up my medication.  I’m now taking 100mg of Sertraline each day.  I still feel unable to go back to work, mostly because my concentration levels are still really low and I keep forgetting things (like when watching tv, the adverts will come on and I have no idea what I have been watching), I still can’t settle to read a book and I’m finding myself really tired even when I have had a good nights sleep.  All of these things create a frustration in me and I know I would find it difficult in work with these symptoms, and I would end up being angry at myself for not being able to carry out the tasks I need to, taking too much time over completing tasks and generally struggling with the day-to-day things I need to do.

I’m finding it pretty hard to motivate myself to leave the house or even have conversations with people.  I feel like I’ve become a bit of a hermit at the moment.  I did manage to go food shopping at 12:30am on the 21st November…the Asda supermarket by me is open 24 hours and because I couldn’t sleep I decided to put that time to good use.  The supermarket was really quiet with only myself and shelf stackers around.  I got to walk around at my own pace and pay attention to what I was buying.  Usually, if I go in the day time I run around like I’m on supermarket sweep, grabbing things and not thinking about what I need or want in order to get out as fast as I can.  This time I only bought what I needed and didn’t forget anything.

I’ve been taking the higher dosage of medication for the last 3 days and so far have not got any more, or bought back any of the side effects I was experiencing.  I just hope that these will help somewhat!