Going To A Treatment Facility

Yesterday I went to a treatment facility. It’s a place which houses inpatients, day patients and has services for outpatients, like me. I met a therapist in this building which looked a lot like an old Victorian mansion where Lords and Ladies would have spent their time doing nothing but being rich and entertaining themselves. It also wasn’t particularly helpful that they were playing funeral music in the waiting area.

It was strange to be in a place purely dedicated to the treatment of mental illness. Before now I’ve only gone to hospitals and surgeries which treatment both mental and physical illnesses. There though, every patient was there for a broadly similar reason, yet still none of us would meet each other’s eyes or, if we did, it would only be for a brief self-indulgent second. Maybe that’s part of what the stigma around mental illness does to, it makes you internalise a sense of shame for being ill which not even being around other people in similar situations can heal.

I was taken up a grand staircase, trailing this woman that I knew I would have to open up my heart and soul to; a stranger with my life in her hands. The upstairs part of the building looked like a posh English boarding school with it’s cracked brown leather chairs, folders sprawled across the floor, art and books haphazardly covering every wall, a battered wooden desk and regal window frames that were not fit for purpose. It was surreal to be in this messy office and know that this would be the site where I would have to fight tooth and nail for recovery.

I answered the same questions I’ve covered with many, many people before over and over again. Initial mental health assessments all really follow the same formula and there never fails to be not enough time to cover everything you wish you could explain. I think I did the best I could though. I was scared and wanted to burst through the heavy door, run away and never return as soon as I took a seat on the sofa. There’s still a large part of my mind and body that wants to fight against and avoid treatment despite knowing that I need it. I stayed though and answered the questions. Then I accepted an appointment for next Thursday which makes it seem real to me – I really am returning to therapy.

The psychologist I saw also said that she was keen for me to see a psychiatrist and said that she would try and arrange an appointment. It’s difficult to know how to feel about that, considering I told her some things that I never told anyone else before. For now, I guess I’ll leave this here before I bore anyone reading this into having to click off this page! Thank you reading this far through, if you’ve got here.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter.

Some of my other mental health posts:

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

I’d Be Invisible

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Mental Health Treatment Is Not Fair

It is the patients who fight relentlessly to be heard, who chase-up their delayed referrals, who refuse to leave appointments until they are seen by those necessary who will find quicker access to mental health services, at least in my experience. However, this is completely contrary to how treatment needs to be supplied at the point of access. The energy and mental effort it takes to reach out for help when you are struggling with mental illness is hard enough as it is, without then having to deal with the rejections and knock-backs you are then subsequently put through. The turmoil you are put through having to be vulnerable with your most inner-held thoughts is enough to go through once when you are trying to reach therapy or other help, let alone having to repeatedly stress the situation you are in and justify your requests for help. Having reached out for help countless times and gotten nowhere seemingly on most of those occasions, I can tell you without doubt that gaining access to mental health care is not simple, quick or easy.

A recurring theme of attempting to access mental health treatment is having to prove again and again that you are sick enough to be treated. This is a fact that makes me sick to my stomach. Patients with mental illnesses are not believed often enough to have early interventions and because of this people are forced to deteriorate  with their mental illness before they get help. It’s not until people hit rock bottom that they are deemed worthy of getting help, which is disgusting. So many people go through unnecessary suffering and trauma because of this.

 

Sorry but I needed this rant. In no way am I discouraging people from seeking help by the way, I just needed to get these feelings of impatience and annoyance off my chest.

 

If you want to see my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter.

Some of my other mental health related posts:

Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

A Mental Health Update

Night Guard and Onto 40mg?

Today was the day I had been waiting for in fearful trepidation. The thought of going to the dentist and the hygienist is truly nerve-wracking for me, so I spend the week-or-so leading up to the appointments worrying about what might happen and agonising over everything that could possibly go wrong. I am relieved to say that both the dentist and the hygienist were very happy with my teeth and gums. However, I did have to be fitted for a night guard to wear over my teeth at night to prevent me damaging my teeth and jaw through grinding and clenching them. I already knew that, due anxiety and stress, I clench my jaw in my sleep but the dentist wanted to prevent long-term damage coming from it, so wearing a mouth guard in my sleep is going to be an experience!

I went to my GP again last week and was told to double my antidepressant dose from 20mg to 40mg. To me, this is nerve-wracking, as this particular antidepressant caused me side-effects when I went on it initially (after trialling Sertraline unsuccessfully for a year), so I am worried that these side-effects will return. However, I do see the logic in doubling my dose because I have been particularly low recently; having suicidal ideation and engaging in destructive behaviour. It feels slightly like I am in a catch-22; if I don’t double my dose I risk carrying-on feeling this way, however if I do make the increase then I face having all of the side-effects return which will possibly make me more depressed because they may leave me unable to do much.

Recently, my focus has moved away from criticising myself for the things I do and the ways I feel towards accepting these negative aspects of myself and trying to protect myself as best I can from them. Constantly fighting against the dark parts of me has been making me feel lost and hopeless, so until I get the therapy I require to attempt to undermine these negative thoughts and behaviours, I will instead just try to prioritise protecting myself from long-term damage. Hopefully, when I eventually do get more treatment, I will be able to rebuild my habits in a healthier form with the help of a mental health professional, right now trying to do this on my own seems an insurmountable and possibly dangerous task.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Find some of my other mental health related life-updates here:

My Relationship With Alcohol

Antidepressants and Nightmares

A Mental Health Update

Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Anxiety manifests itself in a huge variety of ways and the massive presence it has in mine and others’ lives means that it inevitably takes a toll on our bodies and physical health. So, below I have listed just five examples of how anxiety translates into physical symptoms on a daily basis.

1. Headaches 

When I’m feeling stressed for extended periods of time, I usually end-up getting what I call ‘stress headaches’. When I am anxious and worrying about things, my whole body becomes tense; my shoulders rise, I curl-in on myself and I don’t let any of my muscles relax. The result of all this pent-up tension in my body is that I will get a headache which, in turn, makes me feel worse because I am unable to be productive during this time and I have to wait for painkillers to kick-in.

2. Grinding and gritting teeth

I have been told-off numerous times by the dentist for the toll which grinding my teeth all night has on the condition of my teeth. Despite wearing retainers, I still manage to cause myself damage by the extent that I grind my teeth together due to the anxiety I feel even whilst I’m sleeping. This habit also makes my jaw-ache a lot which then contributes to me getting more headaches; so it is easy to see that the physical symptoms I have from anxiety interlink and worsen when they combine with each other.

3. Exhaustion

The amount of energy I use-up and expend on a daily basis because of the anxiety which courses through me means that I tire myself-out. My fatigue is very frustrating because my mood becomes worse and worse when I am not being productive and exhaustion really slows me down throughout the day. It is like my body is constantly existing in conflict with what I need and want it to do. Whilst I feel exhausted a lot, I am also on-edge for most of every day because I am anxious – so the conflicting symptoms I experience leaves me feeling uncomfortable and unsure what to do with myself.

4. Weight loss and fluctuation

For me personally, when my anxiety took a turn for the worse a lot of weight simply dropped-off me. I am now underweight and people frequently comment on how small I have become. Some people find that the opposite happens for them when they go through a bad-patch of anxiety because they use food as a way to comfort themselves, however when I am anxious the thought of eating makes me feel nauseous and I cannot manage to tackle having a full meal. 

5. Skin problems

Anxiety causes both my acne to flare-up and rashes to appear across my body. I have had acne since I was 12ish but there is a definite combination between the state of my mental health and the state of my acne, which is furthered by the fact that I do not eat and drink properly when my anxiety is at it’s worst. My skin becomes painful, red and irritated during these times; almost like it is a physical representation of what I am feeling on the inside! 

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Here are a few of my other mental health posts:

Anxiety At Christmas

Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

5 Things Not To Say This Christmas

Here are just five examples of things that people say around Christmas which really grate on me and deserve to be called-out:

1) ‘Come on, crack a smile, you can’t be miserable at Christmas’

It doesn’t make sense that people could just will their mental illness away for one day or part of the year. People with mental illnesses do not chose to be miserable or any other type of way at Christmas so don’t put your energy into shaming or stigmatising them. Instead, try to engage some empathy this festive period and respect that not everyone has the same experience of Christmas as you do.

2) ‘Are you vegan over Christmas as well?’

The look of disbelief on people’s faces as you admit that you do not have Christmas dinner is startling and hilarious in equal measure! I don’t know if people expect me to pick-up a bacon roll in the name of Christmas and joining in with the people around me but, let me tell you now, that is NOT going to happen! How about you let me do what I want at Christmas and you do you?

3) ‘Well at least have one drink’

People do not realise how hard Christmas is for people who have complex and difficult relationships with alcohol. The pressure to ‘get in the spirit’ and ‘be merry’ is ever-present and telling someone to ‘at least have one’ can do a lot of harm to people’s recovery processes. Don’t assume that the drinking culture around Christmas is enjoyable for everyone or even healthy for some people to be around for that matter.

4) ‘She gets very OCD at Christmas, you know, when she’s decorating and party planning and all that…’

Enough with using OCD as an adjective! OCD is an illness that people have to live with on a daily basis, so stop using it as a throw away comment to describe people’s habits which you find annoying. It is belittling and demeaning for people who have OCD to hear you laugh and joke about it in such a dismissive way when you do not appreciate the reality of how the illness manifests itself in the daily lives of others’.

5) ‘What’s the point of buying presents for pets?’

I call my dogs my babies and so they are treated like any other member of the family and given presents on Christmas Day. They deserve the treats they get for the joy they give me all year round and, if you saw the excitement on their faces when presents get placed before them, you would not even need to question why they are given presents. Genuinely, I think seeing them sniff-out their new toys and rip away wrapping paper is my favourite part of Christmas!

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

 

Anxiety At Christmas

The festive season comes with all sorts of pressures and expectations which is a shame because these details detract from what should be a relaxing time in the company of loved ones. The ideal Christmas image leads us to think that we have to achieve perfection in everything we do; in how we decorate our homes, buying expensive ornaments and gifts, maintaining completely harmonious family ties, being a social butterfly and flitting from one Christmas party to another and immersing ourselves in an environment centred around food, alcohol and indulgence. Whilst all of these things are part of the Christmas image we are sold and look good in the Instagram pictures we are inundated with, they can also produce a lot of anxiety in the many people who worry that they cannot achieve or keep-up with this level of so-called perfection.

Christmas isn’t supposed to be about competition; who’s got the best Christmas tree or how many designer gifts someone has received but the airbrushed images we are presented with lead us to believe that there is a certain standard we have to live-up to, no matter how unattainable it really is. For many, anxiety can be produced as a result of fearing failure or worrying about external expectations. When it is expected for people to attend their big work Christmas parties, for example, fear of being overwhelmed by the hectic environment and the unnecessary pressure to do everything in excess are not a part of the conversation. So, each person who struggles with anxiety at this time of year feels isolated and alone, like no-one else is going through the same things as them.

The following can be sources of anxiety during the festive period:

  • Christmas shopping in busy areas
  • Seeing relatives you do not meet with often
  • Christmas parties
  • The expectation to be festive and merry in all of your interactions
  • Buying gifts and worrying if they are adequate
  • Receiving gifts and stressing about opening them in front of the giver
  • The expectation to indulge in food and alcohol when, for many, our relationships with these things are complex

And so many, many more situations, which others may view as tiny details in the bigger picture of their Christmas, can be anxiety-provoking.

Christmas is meant to be a time we feel the opposite of isolated and fearful of judgement. So, let’s make mental health and inclusion a part of the discussion within the bigger picture of Christmas this year and make sure that no-one feels iced-out of the celebrations.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

Here are some more of my Christmas-related posts:

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

Don’t feel alone this Christmas (resources about the festive period and mental health):

Support at Christmas – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas – The Priory Group

Real Christmas – Samaritans

I’d Be Invisible

You know when you’re asked as a kid what superpower you would chose to have if you could? The answer has always been the same for me, without doubt or question; I would chose to have the power of invisibility.

The power to become invisible at will has always been enchanting to me. Perhaps it’s because I am someone who suffers from anxiety, perhaps it’s because I am cynical and instantly see threats around every corner and a potential bully in every set of eyes. Either way, invisibility seemed a perfect superpower to summon whenever it was needed.

If I could be invisible whenever I wanted, I could drift through the journey from flat into Uni, rather than have to look at every person crossing my path and wonder about all the thoughts which could possibly be crossing their mind. If I could be invisible, going to put the rubbish out wouldn’t have to be an ordeal, wondering whether I might see someone as I walk down the stairs and panic about what on earth I would say to them. If I could be invisible, I could attend lectures without feeling sick at the thought of other people seeing me.

In short, the shame and worry and wracking fear which churn my stomach would no longer plague me if I could summon my power of invisibility at the drop of a hat.

Perhaps then I would not be trapped inside my flat fearing the threats which lay outside my door, agonising over the assassins which I am convinced lie in wait for me. Invisibility could solve a lot of problems, it would be the superpower above all superpowers for people like me.

Therefore, it follows that people like me have to reconcile ourselves with the fact that invisibility is not a superpower we can conjure onto ourselves whenever our thoughts threaten to overcome us. Instead, we set about making ourselves appear and feel invisible instead. So, the next time you see someone with their hood pulled over their face or shaking when they hand the cashier their money, do not snicker and laugh or wonder ‘what the hell is their problem?’ Have some empathy and realise maybe, just maybe, they are wishing themselves invisible in that moment too.

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.