Is medication right for you?

meds

I take a frankly ridiculous amount of medication daily. And I am not going to lie and say I enjoy taking them, because I don’t. But each tablet I take was prescribed after careful research and consideration on the parts of both myself and my GP. I weighed up the risks and benefits of each medication, considered if I thought it was worth it (in terms of risk/ benefit), and considered what the next steps would be if this particular medication didn’t work. Both my and my doctor also took into account the fact that the more medications you take, the less predictable the interactions can be.

Medications, however, aren’t always- read usually- the ‘magic cures’ we believe and want them to be. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a magic pill that works for everyone all the time. That is why the decision to start on medications is such a huge one. It can be much more of a long-term commitment than people realise. Of course, there are plenty of lucky ones who find the perfect medicine first time, but for many people finding the right medication or mix of medications at the right dosage takes time. True, most medications we start we don’t need to take for long, but there are plenty that are a longer term commitment. It is also important to note that in terms of antidepressants and similar medications, sometimes you need to take them for a few months or even years before you are able to stop. But it would be a mistake to assume (except in rare cases like meds to stop you rejecting transplanted organs) that you will have to be on these medications for life. Antidepressants are there to help you regain control of your life and the aim is always to be able to live a healthy and productive life without them in the future.

For most people, there will be a medication, or combination of medications, that control and manage their symptoms. Getting to that point is well worth the wait… however it can sometimes be a relatively long journey that involves trying a number of different medications and doses while you are figuring out what works for you. Since some medications can have bad side effects it can be disheartening to discover yet another medication isn’t working for you. I can only urge that you continue looking. It is very important you are honest with your doctor. If the side effects to a medication are unbearable then let them know. It is worth remembering though that in a lot of cases the side effects lessen and eventually disappear once you have been on the medication a while. My personal recommendation (always to be discussed with your GP) is to give the meds 3/4 months before deciding to move on. Unless they make your symptoms worse or you are unable to cope with the side-effects, that is. For minor issues you may well find they disappear with time.

Medications, particularly for mental health issues, are not the only (or even the best) way to help yourself though. These medications are generally there to help you get into a better frame of mind so you can tackle the things that are behind the mental illnesses. This may include counselling or therapy. That, in combination with medications, can often mean a faster and more complete recovery.

For some people, medications are simply not the answer. There are a hundred reasons that could be the case, including simple patient preference. If you don’t want to start medication for whatever reason, please don’t feel like you are powerless. There are still plenty of things you can do to help yourself. Perhaps the most important (and most often overlooked) way to help heal your mind is to heal your body. And I realise that sounds counter intuitive. But doing what you can to eat a healthy diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients will help every aspect of your health, including your brain and mind. Getting exercise releases endorphins (or ‘happy hormones’) that make you feel happy, safe and secure. It is also an excellent way to reduce stress. Getting the proper amount of sleep is also vital to both good physical and mental health. Anyone with insomnia can attest to the fact that a lack of sleep affects everything from memory to stress levels, it slows healing and can lead to a myriad of health issues including heart problems.

This is something I struggle with immensely, but it is also worth remembering keeping a clean and tidy home will also help your mental health. The saying ‘tidy house, tidy mind’ is very true.

Here is the issue… having mental health problems can make doing those things a million times harder than usual- and they aren’t easy to start with. But it is not impossible. A lot of it involves getting the right support around you, so let your friends and family know what your goals are and what they can do to help you achieve them. Love yourself unconditionally. Accept there will be days where you fail or where you just can’t be bothered.. and that is perfectly okay so long as you get up the day after. Don’t give up on yourself, and others won’t give up on you. If you really want to help yourself, there are relatively easy ways in which you can do it, with little cost involved.

Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to take medication is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong answer, and as much as I wish I could… I can’t make the decision for you. The only thing I will say is that if you go down that road then prepare yourself.. it may be a longer road than you want.. but when you get to the right mix you feel like you gained your life back and it is a little bit magical! All I can say is… look after yourselves!

I am not a doctor, and I don’t play one on the internet. As with any medication, it should be carefully discussed with your doctor, and you should do your own research to ensure it is right for you. You are your own advocate so if you don’t feel like something is right, let your doctor know. Trust me, they genuinely want you to feel better and will do whatever they can to make that happen. And just like you should never start a medication without talking to your doctor first, you should NEVER stop taking one without talking to your doctor either. I have seen it a million times where people feel fine so stop the medication that is helping them feel that way, and they have often gone back to square one pretty quickly. If you feel like it is time to come off a medication, particularly one you have been on for a while, it should be done slowly over a number of weeks under close supervision.

My Family, My Rocks.

 

As you travel though life, there is little as important as your family. Family doesn’t always mean genetically related, but whether you are lucky enough to have your own genes supporting you, or you are lucky enough to be able to have picked your own family (or variations thereof)… life would be almost impossible without them.

I have touched upon the support I get from my family quite a lot on this blog. That is for two reasons. Firstly to show how much I appreciate them and the love they show, but secondly and perhaps most importantly because I would never have been in a position to share my story without them.

My mental health issues can make me feel alone sometimes… and since I live on my own I do get lonely from time to time. But I am fortunate enough never to have been in a position where there was truly no one I could call for help, no matter how alone I felt. My crisis box has a big list of numbers of people who I can call on in a crisis. Family doesn’t mean never feeling alone, or never being lonely. Family means never *being* alone. Family is the people who support you no matter what, that offer their hands to help you get back up when you fall (even if they laugh first!) and who love you for who you are.

My family has been through a lot with me. They have seen me fall pretty hard. They have been frustrated beyond words with me, spent sleepless nights worrying about me, wasted petrol and time coming to help me out, or take me to appointments, or take me shopping. They have been genuinely scared by my actions, worried I wouldn’t be there the next morning. They have had to clean up my messes. They have had to offer me a shoulder to cry on even when they were angry with me. They have stood by me even when walking away would have been easier. And they love me despite knowing I will hurt them again. They have had to re-evaluate all their priorities and put their own lives on hold, at great personal cost. It certainly hasn’t been easy. But that is what true love is…. it is weathering the storms the best you can, because the rainbows and sunshine after it are worth it.

I have never been a perfect daughter, sister, mother, friend, niece or cousin. I never will be. And that is okay. Because the reward for dealing with me at my worst is seeing me at my best. I know my strength has carried people through difficult times. I know that I am 100% there for my family too. I know that the bad times are gradually becoming further apart and less severe. And that means the good times are coming. And most importantly I know I am capable of doing great things.

I have been feeling quite down recently. I have been having issues with my neighbours (I will post about that soon), my mental health hasn’t been great, and finding the right medication and therapy combination is proving particularly difficult right now. And then out of the blue a couple of weeks ago my dad asked me to go on a mini-holiday with him (and my daughter <3). He decided to take the time out and spend it with me. We are only going for a long weekend (in the week lol) because that is all the time he had spare. And despite that he chose to spend it with me. If that isn’t love, I am not sure what is. More than that, I was supposed to be doing something with my best friend on one of those days. When I talked to her about it she didn’t even hesitate for a second before telling me to go and have fun. That is despite the fact she could have used me there. Again, that is love.

Families don’t keep score. Don’t get me wrong, they will bring stuff up at the worst possible moments, they will laugh at you as well as cry with you and they don’t always make the right move… and they will bring up your past without question… but they don’t hold it against you.

You… you reading this. You have family. Probably a lot more family than you know really. Make sure you appreciate them, and thank them for being your Number 1 fans. They are special, and a little recognition is never a bad thing. Having family also means the tables are turned and you are their family too. So everything they do for you, you do for them.

They say love makes the world go round. Well of course it does! People stomping away after arguments with their loved ones make the Earth spin and so do all those doors that are slamming shut!

Q&A: My guilt is taking over my life.

Q&A

Dear Hayley,

I have done some thing in my past that I am not proud of. I am trying to move on but guilt about my past failings is preventing me from being happy. I feel like I don’t deserve happiness after what I have done and it is really getting me down. I am not sure how to cope and how I can move on? Any advice would be great!

Sue*

Hello Sue!

Feeling bad about our past is perfectly normal, and I have yet to meet someone with absolutely no regrets. I know we spoke in detail about this, and the things you have done, and I hope I was able to assure you that they weren’t the most awful things in the world!

I know you have come so far since your ‘darker days’ and you shouldn’t forget that. But since this is causing you so many issues in your day-to-day life, including anxiety, I suggest you visit your GP. They may be able to give you some temporary medication to help you back on to your feet whilst you await some counselling. I think talking things through properly with someone will help you forgive yourself.

I suggested writing a letter to your younger self, telling her the everything will work out okay. Sometimes comforting the part of you that you feel let down by can be a massive comfort, and it can help you see things from the perspective of the ‘younger you’. As we get older we get life experience; experience earned only through having gone through what we have. If you had never done what you had, you would not be the person you are today, and that is something else to cling on to. You are so much stronger than you think and you ARE a good person!

The most important thing I can say is that you WILL pull through this. Your past may not be perfect but you are trying to better yourself now, and that is so important. Many people keep repeating the same bad circles, never learning anything, and they are the ones that will struggle to find happiness. The fact that you could see where you were going wrong and have tried to change it is proof to me that you will make it.

I asked you a question, and found your answer interesting. I asked you if you would think any less of your best friend if she came and told you that she had done everything you told me you did. And you said “of course not!”. So why is it any different for you? You are a completely different person now than you were years ago, so why not try forgiving that person rather than forgiving yourself? That may be easier.

I wish you all the best!

 

 

 

*Names have been changed

The advice I have given here is my opinion only, and it should never replace that of a medical professional. I have been emailing Sue for a few months now. She has started therapy, and it is going well. She is also on some medication for her anxiety. She has approved both the shortened version of her original email I posted and my response, and is now ready for her story to be shared. She hasn’t found things easy, and has uncovered some deeper issues during her therapy, but she is coping really well and feeling positive about the future. She wanted to share her story because she felt alone. She said, and I quote, “The world is so much harder when you don’t like yourself, it is like being around an enemy 24/7 and you can’t escape, not even for a minute, so the hatred just gets deeper and deeper”. I have to admit, I can see exactly where she is coming from, I am not particularly fond of myself a lot of the time either. And that is exactly what living with a mental health problem is like. But there is a sentence to live by: If you don’t love yourself, no one else will be able to love you enough. It is true that there is a void that can be filled only by us. And that is why having the best support network in the world isn’t always enough. But it is a very good start, and sometimes seeing how much other people love you helps you see yourself through their eyes, not your own.

 

I will keep you updated with Sue’s progress as she continues on her journey. It is still early days but the if the improvements she has made already are anything to go by, this story at least will have a happy ending!

Time to talk!

We have all heard the saying “A problem shared is a problem halved”. I am here to tell you it’s true! So now, right now, it is time to be brave. Talking is hard. At least to start with. When I write about personal things in this blog it’s never easy. But talking, in whatever medium you chose, helps you to sort things out in your head. It also helps you get the help, love, and support you need.

Many people, myself included, put the bad bits away in a box and lock it up. We hope to forget. We don’t talk about it because it hurts and we hope one day it will all go away. The problem with that is that we can’t make an airtight box in our heads. No matter what we do bits of the bad stuff leaks out and affects our lives. Sometimes in small ways and sometimes in big ways. The problem with that is you never know when that lid will fly open, and when it does you are in trouble.

When I write here, it helps me put everything in order in my head and it helps me make sense of what is going on. When I talk to my best friend, I have practical support and emotional support that never leaves. When I talk to my family I have the never-ending love that helps keep me going. When I talk to strangers I have the opportunity to help someone else. When I talk to individuals I have a chance to hold their hands through the whole process. There is nothing more powerful on this Earth than the words we have. Words can start wars and end them, cut and heal, build and tear down. Words can give or take away power, they can start a revolution, they can further our understanding of the world and they can give hope.

It is time to stop saying things and start really talking. Imagine what you can achieve. It might hurt, it might open up old wounds, it might make you uncomfortable or embarrassed. That doesn’t last long, and once you are over that hurdle there is no limit to what you can achieve. But you have to start somewhere. I am urging everyone reading this to start that conversation and stop being afraid of the stigma, or the judgement. It is time to move beyond our fear and start really helping ourselves and others.

When I was first diagnosed with mental health problems, there wasn’t a lot of help on the internet. And I didn’t know anyone else going through the same thing. I don’t want anyone else to feel that lonely and the best way to do that is to get talking. So go on, do your best. It all starts with ‘Hello!’.

Holding on to the pain.

 

Letting go of something hurtful is really difficult. When we are in pain we need time to process what has happened, and we need time to come to terms with it. However, it is often harder than it looks. Talking does help people process what happens, and bottling things up only leads to more pain.

There is a point when talking about it does more harm than good. It sounds contradictory I know. Talking about it gets you sympathy from your friends and family… but if you refuse to let it go when it is time, the only thing you will get is more pain. We can upset ourselves by constantly bringing it up and thinking of it. By doing that we don’t allow ourselves to move on. Holding on to anger, upset, pain and bad memories leaves you constantly in a highly emotional state.

We have emotions to help us cope with the bad bits, to help us prepare for fight or flight moments, let us know how much we love someone. They are only meant to be temporary, otherwise we couldn’t cope with anything. Holding on to negative emotions has an effect on the whole body. Stress can be very dangerous if you hold on to it for too long. It can even cause heart attacks.  As hard as it is, people that let go of their emotions are able to return to normal. Holding on to them leaves you upsetting yourself  instead of loving and looking after yourself.

Here is list of a few emotions and how they help:

LOVE: Love keeps us from murdering our children when they cry for the 14th time that night and you need to be up early. Love is bearing the worst bits of your partner just so you can see the best bits.

ANGER: Anger protects us by getting the adrenalin going and helping you with your fight or flight situation. It also keeps our moral compass pointing in the right direction.

FEAR: It might not feel very nice but fear is a very helpful emotion. It helps you keep yourself safe via hyper-vigilance… meaning you make sure you are aware of everything that is going on around you… that way there are no surprises.

GUILT: Guilt is another important emotion. It shows both our conscience and our moral compass are working, and making you feel bad for whatever you did means you wont do it again. It is like a disciplinary emotion that makes you want to do the right thing.

EMPATHY: Empathy is a lovely emotion. It helps create a strong bond and can help lots of people. Being able to understand what someone has been through can drag up some bad memories, but it can also reassure people that it does get better in time and they will be okay. Sometimes that is all they need to hear.

CONTENT: This has got to be the best emotion out there. Feeling content really is a blessing. When you feel good enough to want things to carry on exactly as they are, you are content.

That’s all for now, I will do a more comprehensive list later.

This blog entry is a tribute to my gorgeous sister, who is struggling to let go at the moment. I sincerely hope she is able to let go, move on, and create the life she always wanted. She is stronger than she thinks and moving on will allow her to continue with her wedding plans and focus on that rather than the emotions.

The police just woke me up at 3am by banging on my door!

 

I am annoyed. I am tired. I am scared. I am bloody pissed off. I just had 4 policemen show up at my door. I wake up to hear them literally banging on the door, threatening to ‘break in by force if necessary’. Unfortunately this is now the third time this has happened.

I am not a drug dealer. I am not involved in anything illegal. I was there alone, and asleep. And yet I get  treated like a criminal and they barge in to my HOME to have a look around. Why? Apparently because I was screaming again. That is what happens when you have PTSD. You get flash backs. And apparently my neighbours thought I was being murdered. Again.

It  is absolutely terrifying, and, to be perfectly honest, I really, really need a cuddle. The police didn’t do anything wrong. They settled down when I told them what happened and they made me a cup of tea. They managed to calm me down a little, though I am still in shock. I am an idiot. I didn’t even check for ID, I just let them barge in without so much as a word. Don’t get me wrong, they were legit, but they don’t take into account that people are not as vigilant when they have just been woken up.

I have to put up with these flash backs quite often. My daughter lives with my parents at the moment, and this is partly why. When she is here, I stay awake, all night, because I am terrified I will have an ‘episode’ while she is there. So I just sit there quietly all night.

Apparently, the police have to report this to my landlord and someone else I can’t remember. According to them, if I continue ‘disturbing the peace’ like this my tenancy could be in jeopardy. They said they were sorry they had to tell me that. Now I need someone to tell me what on earth I can do to stop this from happening again. How am I supposed to stop it?

Nightmares are awful. Night terrors are horrific. But flash backs? A flash back is reliving the worst things that ever happened to you over and over again. It is so real you can smell, touch and feel everything that is going on. It is exactly like it is happening again. Those who have never had a flash back can’t understand what it is like, and I hope they never have to find out.

I am shaking, and crying. I feel weak. I feel vulnerable. And if I am being perfectly honest I have a very strong urge to cut. I feel lost, and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to fix me.

Just to kick me when I am way down, my BPD is making me feel everything 100x more than ‘normal’ people do. My depression is consuming me. My anxiety disorder is pushing me on the verge of a panic attack and I am trying to write to calm myself down. I am trying not to go into a dissociative state. I am fighting no less than SIX separate mental health problems at once. You tell me. How am I supposed to win?

Self Harming…. *Trigger Warning!*

 

I have been quiet for the last few weeks, and I apologise for that. I haven’t been doing very well. When I started writing this blog, I promised to share the good and the bad. It is important to me that I write about the REAL effects of living with mental health problems. I must warn you, this post contains triggers regarding self harm that could upset you. Please look away if you feel it will hurt you.

For 10 years, my self harm method of choice was always overdosing. Unfortunately, after a while, your body can’t cope with it any more. Because of that, I have cirrhosis of the liver. Half of it is dead, and it can’t repair itself as the damage was just too much.

Recently, I have been under immense pressure, that was added on to the usual massive dip in mood that happens around April and August each year. Basically, I was feeling helpless and lost. I knew I couldn’t overdose again, because genuinely I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to damage my liver even further. But I still needed a release, so I started cutting.

Yes, it was stupid. I know. But there you  have it… that is what happens when you need a release and nothing else works. I should mention that I raided my crisis box and phoned my local crisis team before cutting, and I was very helpfully told to go to bed!! Absolute joke… they are supposed to be the people who help when you are in crisis mode!

My experiences about cutting have in the past has been talking to those that have done it, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of it. I have heard them say watching the blood flow feels like you are letting the bad bits out. I have also heard people say it helps them feel in control, and that the pain helps them feel alive again. I am not sure what my experiences are yet… I just enjoy watching the blood build up.

I never thought I would write a blog like this, and it is a shame I lost the battle with my mind for a little while. But having spoken to various mental health professionals who have said that while cutting is not good, it is better than overdosing considering my liver status. I was given these tips, and I shall pass them on. Before I do, however, I need you to know I don’t condone cutting. I hope you manage to find better ways of coping, and I hope you look at my crisis box post for coping tips. I sincerely hope you never need these tips. But knowing that cutting is NOT a suicide attempt, and is simply a coping technique for when things get bad, means it is better to be safe that sorry.

  • Contact a mental health professional. This should ALWAYS be something you do before you self harm in any way. If you don’t have your own mental health nurse or other professional you can talk to, don’t forget there are still people you can talk to. Here are some useful numbers and websites.
  • Go through your crisis box. If you haven’t got one, please have a look at this page and create one. If you are stuck, let me know, I have been helping people put them together. These are distraction techniques that can be amazingly helpful!
  • Practice mindfulness… tips can be found here, here, here, or in any Google search.  It helps calm you down, and brings you back into the present moment.
  • If you must cut, keep it safe. Use sterile blades at all times (you can either buy sterile blades, or sterilise the ones  you have in sterilising fluid or even putting them in boiling water. If you are using disposable blades, make sure you dispose of them safely. If you are re-using the same blade, be super careful and vigilant about keeping it sterile. That last thing you want to worry about is an infected wound.
  • Wash the area you will be cutting AND your hands thoroughly, I use an antibacterial scrub to help. Keeping everything clean reduces the risk of infection.
  • Once you have cut, keeping the area clean and dry is essential. If it is a small cut, you can use an antiseptic, but don’t do that in a deeper cut as it will just get into your blood stream and wont work.
  • Dress the wound appropriately. Make sure you have a suitable first aid kit with the right size dressings and bandages (if needed). Put the dressing on the cut, and if the blood comes through that dressing put another dressing over the top, and wrap a bandage round it. The bandage should be firmly on, but not tight enough to cut of circulation or be uncomfortable. After twenty  minutes or so, you can go back and redress the wound. If it is still bleeding, reapply the bandage. If after a further ten minutes you are still bleeding, it is time to get some help.
  • Keep wound closing strips (Steristrips for example) handy, wounds heal quicker if the skin is together (rather than a gaping wound  in the middle) and scaring is less evident.
  • LEAVE IT ALONE! Once you have cut, leave the wound alone. Don’t keep removing the dressing to stare at it, you will have plenty of time for that later. The more often you remove the dressing the higher the risk of infection.
  • If the cut does get infected, seek guidance from your GP. Leaving it to go away on its own can be dangerous, so always get it checked over.

I hope you never need that list. The important thing to remember is that there ARE other ways of coping. Use all the tools you have and maybe this time you wont need to do it. Cutting should never be the first thing you do when you ‘feel the urge’.

I am NOT a medical professional of any kind. My advice should never substitute that of someone qualified. However, should you ever need to talk, if you want some advice, or just a friendly ear, you can contact me at any time. You are not alone, you are strong enough to cope, and you WILL come through this. Just stay safe!