Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

There is a certain stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Full disclosure; I do take medication to help me cope with my mental health and I’m tired of it being treated as shameful or weak.

Taking mental health medication is seen as proof of a person having given-up and not working to resolve their own issues. Medication is viewed by many as the ‘easy way’ and reliance on it is thought to be weak and showing a lack of self-motivation to engage with therapy and other methods of working through mental health condition.

I call BS on all of these assumptions! I reached for medication as a last resort after I had tried therapy and counselling and found myself in a desperate situation where I felt like there was no hope of me ever getting better. For many people, medication offers them a lifeline, a way to level-out their condition/s so that they can go about their lives in the way that they want to. Medication can offer someone a platform from which to build their lives but it does not magically solve all of your problems. Work is required on top of taking medication to achieve the feeling of being mentally ‘well’. So, the next time you want to call antidepressants ‘happy pills’ think again because it just shows uneducated and ignorant you are about the whole topic.

Patients and doctors never take the step toward medication lightly. The journey to finding the right medication for your needs is a hard one in its own right. Often you have to trial a medication for a few months, see if it makes you better or even worse, then face the possibility of trying it all over again. The added stress of the medication having negative side-effects makes the process even more disheartening, scary and confusing. So, no, medication is not the easy option or a sign that someone cannot be bothered to work on their own self-improvement. In reality, a person’s trials and tribulations with medication can be really bloody hard in itself.

Other people pile shame on those who, like me, take medication. They say that medication is harmful, ask why we would subject ourselves to it and tell us to try a myriad of different natural alternatives. Now, I’m as big a fan of yoga and colouring-in as the next person but assuming that we haven’t already tried all of those things or that our conditions (which you know barely anything about) could be suddenly cured by these activities is insulting. The individual taking the medication knows their mental health the best, so do not try to shame them by pretending that you know better what they should and shouldn’t do. Some people find that medication works for them, others find that mindfulness and other techniques are great for them, none of these options should be shamed or stigmatised. Let people deal with their own health in the way they see best.

 

Another post I wrote about this topic can be found here: BEING ON AN SSRI

 

For daily doses of my ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

Advertisements

Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

It was not until very recently that I heard the term ‘protecting factors’ but immediately it made sense to me. I was having a mental health assessment and I admitted to having suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The nurse then asked me what stopped me acting on those thoughts and attempting suicide. I asked myself this question and was slightly embarrassed to give my honest answer. However, I knew the truth and this was that my dogs are what stops me from acting on my suicidal impulses and thoughts. I felt embarrassed about saying this out loud to a mental health professional because human relationships with pets are so often trivialised and I thought that they wouldn’t take my bond with my dogs seriously. I thought that giving this answer would leave them to believe that my suicidal ideation could not be that strong in the first place – none of which is true.

Instead, the nurse told me that my dogs are what is called my ‘protecting factors’. They act as a release valve for my stress because playing with them is uplifting. They comfort me when I am low by nuzzling and cuddling me, letting me know that I am not alone. When I get anxious about having social contact with humans, they remind me I am capable of having a functional relationship because of the ways I have bonded with them. When I think about leaving this world, they tether me to it because I could not bear to leave them; my desire to protect them and watch them grow-up are what, at this moment at least, is still keeping me fighting for life.

The World Health Organisation works on the definition of ‘protecting factors’ as being those which “enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk.” They use this definition in relation to physical as well as mental health risks but ‘protective factors’ are always seen as what stops an individual’s situation from escalating to a dangerous or drastic level.

So, I would encourage you to think about what your protecting factors are, especially in the lead-up to the festive period which, for me, always adds extra stress onto my shoulders and makes my mood dip because I am hyper-aware of the fact that I am supposed to be happy. Hold your protecting factors dear and be grateful for their existence and what they mean to you. Feel free to share what your protecting factors are in the comments below!

 

Information And Resources About Managing Mental Health At Christmas:

Christmas and mental health – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas (5 ways to look after your mental health) – Priory Group

Depression At Christmas Guide – Mental Health in the UK

 

Some Related Blog Posts Of Mine:

How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

Antidepressants and Nightmares

A quick Google search about the relation between antidepressants and nightmares/graphic dreaming brought-up claims that SSRIs (a form of antidepressants) have been found, in some studies, to increase the number of nightmares and vividly of dreams a person experiences in their sleep. Now, I am certainly not a scientist or psychologist, however I do know that lately my dreams have bordered on seriously disturbing most nights recently. I am also on antidepressant medication.

The frustrating thing about dreams is that they appear outside of our control; how are we supposed to suppress something which preys on us whilst we are semi-conscious? It’s like being chained to the inevitability that I will be forced to watch a horror show with me as the main character the vast majority of times I go to bed.

There was a time when I thought that nightmares were a feature of childhood, something we all grew out of eventually and consigned to our distant pasts. This seems an incredibly naive idea to me now. Is it not logical that if you are emotionally distressed day in, day out, then this would seep into your experience of nighttime too? How could the problems you face in the day not transfer into how you feel at night?

Although, it does seem rather unfair. My mental health issues preying on me when I am most defenceless does not exactly seem like a fair contest. At least when I am awake there are some avenues of distraction I can attempt to take, whereas at night time my entire mind is the playground of these disturbing, graphic storylines.

Also, somewhere I remember reading that most people do not dream in colour, which is a statement that amazed me. From what I can recall, I always dream in colour (I don’t know if this serves to make my nightmares worse or not though).

Please leave your experience of dreaming/nightmares in the comments below and feel free to share any knowledge you may have about the correlation between nightmares and antidepressants.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

A Mental Health Update

Recently so many mental health issues have reared their heads and spun out of control in my life that I thought it may be useful for me to write about them all in a blog post to see if that helps me not feel so overwhelmed by my emotions.

TW: TALK OF SELF-HARM, DEPRESSION AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

Firstly, the feeling of hopelessness has been following me around for weeks. Like my shadow, it has shown me darkness in every moment or situation I have been in. Hopelessness has fed on my fear that no matter what I do my life will always be controlled by my mental health conditions which I will never have the power to make better. I have despaired for hours on end about how I cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel and I have lost faith that one day I may be free of all the negativity which constantly weighs me down. I’m starting to believe that my mental health is a life sentence.

My anxiety has been running wild lately. Without the energy to tame it, the beast has chained me to my flat and isolated me from everyone. Even when I do manage to creep outside my front door and brave the wider world, it haunts my every step and tells me that I should sprint back inside before something terrible happens. Almost everyday I wake-up feeling nauseous and ill because of my anxiety. Butterflies in my tummy remind of the dangers which could lurk around every corner and the worries in my mind paint the world to be a very dangerous place.

Partnering with my chaotic anxiety, my OCD has flared-up again. Intrusive thoughts have taken on a graphic hue and I cannot look at certain people without the thought of them harming me flashing constantly across my mind. My OCD informs me that everyone is dangerous and that I am vulnerable to being attacked every second of the day, so I am left scared, vulnerable and confused even in my own home.

Self-harm has crept its devious way back into my life. Yet again, I have to keep my arms covered by long sleeves so no-one can see the evidence of what I do to myself. The loathing I feel towards myself has yet again manifested itself in violence and I feel like a defenceless pawn in self-harm’s twisted game.

I have been at the brink of thinking that life is no longer worth living. However, I sought help and went to speak to my local mental health team with the faith that, once they heard what I had to say, they would know how to help me. Instead, it turns out that I left the centre with a couple of numbers written down on a flimsy piece of paper and the encouragement to self-refer myself to a charity, as if this was something I had not already tried. This felt like a kick in the teeth. They ignored my request to review my medication and, although I have a final review appointment booked there, I have no enthusiasm to return to their service again after this experience. Finding no help available for the one place you hoped may give you some answers is so deflating it is almost too painful to think about.

The atmosphere of University has only been exacerbating my problems. Everything feels worse in the context of this high-pressured environment, in which I am surrounded by people to compare myself unfavourably to. I look around and see people able to move around without being heaved down by the weight of anxiety and depression, then self-loathing fills up my body and soul again with a vengeance.

 

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Is The Internet Poisoning My Mind?

Life takes on a different sense of touch
When my eyes are not grazed,
Or pricked by poisoned pixels
Invading my mind via osmosis
From a scarily familiar screen.

Expecting The Worst

I surprise myself
When my ink does not make me gag;
To enjoy an impression of my existence
Is a call to confidence,
Harking from deep inside my soul.

It’s strange how very menacing
A morsels is to consume
If it hails from the fibres
Of your own energised hands,
Bearing the weight of your fingerprints.

Scared To Write?!

Is it ironic to write about writers’ block? Probably, but it feels like the only way to exercise this frustration I am feeling with myself. I have a lot of blog post ideas rattling around in my head but I cannot muster-up the confidence to actually make them come to life on my computer screen. Sometimes I get as far as writing the title but then the image of unimpressed readers’ faces float before my eyes and I convince myself that no-one will be interested in what I have to say.

It’s frustrating, largely because I know that I should be writing for myself rather than trying to complete the impossible task of writing to please anyone and everyone who could possibly stumble across my post.

Without the release of writing on this blog, a build-up of emotions start to compile inside me which is difficult to navigate without an outlet.

A list of draft posts, all asking for my attention, are left unfinished to differing degrees. I cannot conjure the energy to conquer all of the voices telling me to give-up trying with my writing ideas, so I just leave the drafts to gather metaphorical dust.

All of the poems I have been posting recently, I wrote in one hour on a couple of days (largely when a measure of desperation had set-in and I knew that I had no other choice to write-out my distress otherwise it was going to eat me up inside). It’s hard to have confidence in what your mind is telling you to write when you are struggling to trust your own mind in the first place. So, I start and then all of my insecurities and worries come crashing back down into the forefront of mind – a weight of thoughts I do not always want to wade through.

Bear with me, if you will.

 

Finding Comfort In A Bottle – Part Two

I love the seizing ache
As it spreads across my chest,
Powerful and raw like wildfire;
It blazes a trail down my body
Resting in my stomach where it burns
As my whole body yearns towards it.

The longing to seize this power
And draw it down me never ends –
It’s a part of me –
The portion of my whole which craves
More destruction, the release
Coming from such sickly, manipulative liquid.

Despite the warnings, the stop signs,
Before it reaches my mouth,
The liquid release settles inside me anyway,
Leaving it’s mark burnt into my being
And caressing the lost parts of me
Which it makes a point to find and seek.

 

The first instalment of this poem can be found here: Finding Comfort In A Bottle

 

 

Flawed Hope

I might suck the vitamins from my tongue
Lame as a tamed, feral animal,
However, their colourful bottle fools me;
When promise comes in a capsule
Your ground has already slipped away.

Under The Puppeteer’s Control

Do you know what it is like,
The electric charge in my head?
It sends shockwaves to my fingers,
Vibrates the crux of my bones
And sends me skidding into the night.

As uncontrolled hands fly over my head –
My body a veritable war zone –
I look to my feet, scolding them,
Before I remember the puppeteer is above
So dominant, it kills my control.