Interviews: Part 2/4

Following on from part 1, I have complied the remaining information from people and now have the final four discussions from people who experience poor mental health ready to post. I hope that these interviews are beginning to shed some light on how widespread mental health problems can be – affecting someone from early childhood to their late 20s and beyond.

Interviewees 5-9 out of 9.

How old are you?

38

26

24

33

What is your job?

Mechanic and door supervisor.

Hairstylist.

No comment.

Engineering professional and firefighter.

What mental health condition do you suffer from?

Anxiety and panic attacks.

Anxiety, depression, PTSD and psychotic episodes.

Anxiety and panic attacks.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (primarily obsessional).

How old were you when you first experienced poor mental health?

26/27

Late teens.

Around 10 but I didn’t realise this until much later. Resurfaced at 19.

I think if I’m honest, looking back on it I realised I was troubled at a very young age. My earliest memories would suggest that I began to suffer from as early as 8 years old, where I would ruminate as a form of self-preservation. I didn’t however acknowledge any real issues in my mental health until I was in my early teenage years.

Had anything happened prior to this that may have contributed to your condition?

No, I don’t know what triggered it.

Yes. Family issues, sexual and domestic abuse.

Alcoholism, domestic violence, family loss.

My parents separated when I was at a very young age, probably three years old. My mother was an alcoholic, often violent at times and this was generally directed at me. I was a minor under the child protection register, that was moved through seven different schools; into emergency care/foster care and generally ‘passed through the system’. My father tried very hard to settle me into his life; however looking back on it almost like Stockholm Syndrome I loved my captor and I would return home. This may have been a regretful mistake on my behalf.

What would you describe as your most difficult period of mental health?

Not able to enjoy normal things like other people do and how much it was affecting my daughters life as well with me being like this.

In 2012, following a lot of domestic abuse I was pushed into a pile of glass and hurt by the abuser. I was admitted to hospital, the glass had cut through my foot and through my tendon. Five days later following an operation I was discharged. However, the abuse continued; I was now also receiving death threats from the abusers family. I was suffering awful panic attacks daily. This is when my depression really hit. I had now been off work for two months due to my injury, although it was my mental health that was causing the most pain. As well as the panic attacks, I had begun hallucinating. I hadn’t slept properly since the incident and hadn’t left the house in weeks. My life was spiraling and I felt there was nothing I could do to control it. At this point I was taken to the doctors to assess my mental health. I was put on the waiting list for counselling and prescribed anti-depressants. I was advised to write down my feelings; I found this excruciatingly painful. Less than a week later I was rushed to hospital following an overdose. I felt like I was a burden on my family, especially Mum, I didn’t want to cause them anymore pain. I wasn’t me anymore. A couple of days later I was discharged from hospital. I had to return five days a week for further assessments until further notice. I felt totally empty. I was not allowed to be in  room on my own, nor did I want to be – no one could trust me, I couldn’t trust myself. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, why was I seeing all these things that no one else could see? Why did I hear things my mum didn’t, waking up from nightmares and then re-living them awake. I felt alone. Life was terrifying. After many other painful assessments and admitting they were at a loose end, the crisis team at the hospital introduced me to a consultant. There are three women in my journey that saved my life, and the consultant was one of them. She got it. It was like she could read my mind – how scared, lonely and exhausted I was. She gave me meds to comatose me, allowing me to build up the energy to begin to comprehend what was happening. I took these for two weeks. She also prescribed me anti-psychotics and upped my anti-depressants. After three weeks of taking the tablets I had built up (some) resilience; I was assigned to a local psychiatric doctor and began the road of counselling. However, this didn’t last long; my counselor left after three weeks,  without warning. I blamed myself and felt alone once more. They filled the gap with a student and she openly admitted she felt ‘out of her depth and didn’t know what to say’. Mum then decided enough was enough; we needed to go private. This lady; my new counselor; was the second lady that saved my life. We built up trust, it took time, but she got me talking for the very first time. She was incredible. She was consistent. We worked together to unravel things to give me enough head space to deal with these issues; one at a time. I realised that all the awful things that had happened to me weren’t my fault. After a terrible two years, with her support, I began the slow process to return to work. I saw her twice a week for about a year, then gradually less for the following ten months. The third lady to save my life was my mum. My rock, my best friend: I wouldn’t have gotten through this without her.

Most difficult time was when I started a relationship with a new partner; I had never felt love before and the fear of losing them became paralysing. I couldn’t trust them; sleep without them; eat properly. Panic attacks were happening daily. I quit my university course and my IBS flared up so badly that I lost one stone in a very short period of time. This was all because of past trauma (that I now understand more about) triggering it at this moment in time. The past was the root of the problem.

My mid teenage years saw me develop into a rebellious and challenging person. I was diagnosed as depressed at fourteen years old and became a victim of Paroxetine, driving me into suicidal thoughts and heavy periods of self loathing accompanied by crippling anxiety. It was during this time that I first recall horrifying intrusive thoughts and feeling that I was losing my grip on reality. I was assigned a counselor after a drug related incident at school, and struggled both with my mental wellbeing and with my achievements in my last years in secondary education. Into my mid twenties, I would battle with addictions, panic attacks, intrusive thoughts and obsessive tendencies until I became utterly exhausted. I was plagued with obsessions, forced into constant rumination and had no real idea why. I obsessed about my health, constantly believing that I was on the brink of death or that I would become poisoned by people, the environment or anything I came into contact with. My career had supported my ability to grasp a level of control on my life, however, my personal life was in ruins. Until a point where I can honestly say I wanted it to end. I was diagnosed with a form of OCD, placed through therapy and signed onto medication that would in no doubt save my life.

What 3 things has your condition taught you about life/yourself?

How weak we can be at times, talking about whats going on in your head helps massively and knowing you’re not alone and other people are experiencing the same issues.

Life is never as it seems – be kind. You have to be selfish sometimes, don’t feel guilty. Listen to your minds needs. Appreciate what you have and make the most of every good day. Don’t dwell on a bad one, it will pass.

You don’t have to follow the path set for you, you are not a reincarnation of your parent – your life doesn’t have to follow their path. That experiencing the same trauma doesn’t make you the same as another person. All my siblings reacted differently to me: becoming angry, refusing to drink alcohol, moving away. None of these things are or have to be my coping mechanism. The people around you, especially ‘my people’ are the real people who can make a difference. And I know that even when I don’t feel like talking, and there is still a lot I haven’t shared, that seeing those people will ease my anxiety.

I am extremely resilient. I lack the ability to let people love me, and I have little access to my emotions for 99% of the people that I meet. The world contains many people who want to understand, but very few who actually do.

Do you take medication or have previously to aid your mental health?

Citalopram 20mg everyday.

Yes, I still take anti-depressants and anti-psychotics daily.

Yes, citalopram.

The only success I have had with medication is sertraline, and I still hate it. I generally end up at crisis point once a year and will accept medication when I have lost the will to fight my thoughts or have no energy left to pick myself up… other than that, I hate the tablets and the way they make me feel.

What tools/methods do you use to help manage your mental health condition?

Trying not to let it beat me, if I’m feeling anxious about something I need to tackle it head on or I’ll never get past it.

I can now recognise the symptoms of my illness; so can my loved ones. I talk about it: anything and everything that I find stressful or feel anxious about. I take time for myself (silly things like turning my phone off helps) and I ask for hugs all the time!

Talking, exercise, wearing a ring that I can spin when I feel anxious, having a bath and sleeping.

I have become adapted. I try to rationlise my thoughts and ground myself, I also have learned to use a limited time of rumination to calm my thoughts. I also found an amazing online community to help me through the worst of times. I put out a massive thank you to the No More Panic community.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone else suffering, what would it be?

Talk!!! Talking about it to someone will take a massive load off your shoulders, even if its a complete stranger, just getting those words out of your mouth is a massive first step.

Talk. Allow yourself to cry; don’t let it build up. Be honest with your friends and family and seek help before it becomes unmanageable. Don’t be afraid – a better day will come.

It will get better, I promise. Yes, its going to be hard, probably the hardest thing that you will go through and yes you may relapse. But there is a reason that you are you. The difference you make to other peoples lives is the reason for you to be here. You might not even realise it but you are to others, what others are to you: Their Person.

Talk… Talk and do not be afraid to, do not feel shame and do not feel like you are alone.

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