A big part of me writing this post is to talk about any potential stigma and judgement surrounding anti-depressants. When I told my GP I was a little hesitant her first response was to try and put me at ease, obviously assuming it was that I was worried about.
Now, I’ve worked in mental health. I’ve had friends and family members with various mental health issues. I am the least judgmental person out there, especially when it comes to this kind of thing. I see it as no different to taking medication for a migrane or cold. The reality is I was just scared. That’s all. No more, no less.
If it gets to the point where I need to take them then I’ll admit that I will be nervous. It is a bit daunting when we consider putting anything new into our bodies. I don’t know what, if any, side effects there may be for me personally. It’s simply being fearful of the unknown and I think that’s a pretty normal reaction.
My GP said something I really appreciated though.
You won’t notice a change day to day, but when you look back after six weeks you’ll see how far you’ve come.”
I liked that and it did put me at ease.
LET ME BACK UP A BIT
I recently changed GP’s after my old one told me she didn’t think I needed anti-depressants. This was back in early February when I was feeling particularly down. When I told her that I had been feeling rather suicidal she kind of reasoned to me that I’d had a few good days too. FYI “a few good days” was me simply not feeling suicidal. My appointment was to specifically ask for them so when I came away emptied handed I felt pretty confused to say the least.
I also wanted reassurance that if I truly felt like I was going to harm myself that I could go to hospital. I confessed that I had a fear my children could be taken away from me with that option. The reply was a bit of a nod and non-committal half sigh. To this day I’m not really sure what the answer is. But by that point, and sensing a panic attack coming on, I just wanted to get out of there.
Getting the courage to actually ask for medication was a big deal for me, and I’d assume for many others. I felt disheartened and I continued to really struggle. So that is how, a few months later and still feeling like I needed some medical intervention, I found myself at a new lovely GP.
MY APPOINTMENT WENT REALLY WELL
I provided information about the previous twelve months and explained how I had been diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND) already. I said that I thought because I presented well and can articulate my feelings clearly it can seem like I’m doing better than what I actually am.
Despite the fact I’ve asked for help before, it was all still pretty nerve wracking. Answering questions about my children, their birth, their current health and my current health does bring up some negative feelings for me. Especially surrounding the trauma of the girls entry into this world and in regards to Little Red’s ongoing health issues. I won’t say that I was embarrassed nor ashamed of my mental health situation, but it is certainly confronting discussing it so openly with a stranger.
Writing this blog allows me a degree of non-confrontational confidence. I don’t tend to get immediate reactions and if I do they’re often in the form of a written message or phone call. It’s very different writing something down in the comfort of your own home to actually looking someone in the eye and voicing your darkest thoughts.
WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT
Seeing a GP to talk about your mental health is not what I would call a pleasant experience but I stress that it is a necessary one. It is a HUGE step in the right direction. Trust me, I am someone who has asked for help three times now (go me!).
In all honesty I’d say the response I got from both doctors was overall good. However the care plan lacked a little with the first one. I wasn’t guided at all but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Both times I completed a mental health questionnaire that asks you a range of questions about how you’ve felt the past four weeks. The first time (June 2016 – click here to read about it) I scored pretty high and was diagnosed with severe PND. This time I scored higher than what’s considered normal, but miles better than last year. Which is great because you want your score to lessen not increase.
THEN WHAT HAPPENS?
You talk about your care plan. In my case, I probably should have gone on anti-depressants when I first presented. But my GP at the time didn’t really talk to me about it too much so my health plan was solely seeing a psychologist. This did help somewhat but, again, she wasn’t a great referral because her interest was child mental health. Although I liked her and found it helpful, there was a point where she had to agree with me. My life was difficult and there wasn’t really much I could do to change it. After that it kind of felt a bit redundant me going just to have a whinge and not really feel better about any of it.
I have to say that the psychologist really did help with my panic attacks by giving me tools to cope. I was taught how to look for the onset signs and how to calm myself down before I felt like I couldn’t breathe. So, there was definitely some good that came from going.
SO, BACK TO THE MEDS
Fearing that my mental health was declining and with Hubby’s continued support, I made the decision to ask for them.
Way back five weeks ago I was having more bad days than good. I felt like I had gotten worse overall and that was a pretty scary reality. I didn’t want to return to the place where I started planning to kill myself again. However, by the time my second appointment rolled around I’d made significant changes. Like, submitting a complaint letter to the hospital about my spinal during labour, care on the maternity ward and subsequent dealings regarding my back pain. I also officially became self employed which has had a huge positive impact on my mental health and confidence. We’ve also been walking along the lake a lot more and I am a big believer that getting outdoors and/or moving your body does wonders for your overall well-being.
So, although I got the prescription for anti-depressants, I’m not sure if I’m going to start taking them.
I confess that I can’t be sure I won’t wake up tomorrow and feel like I couldn’t do life anymore. I’ve been tricked with good runs before and I honestly don’t want to get my hopes up just yet.
I always considered myself a bit of a brave person. Not that I don’t get scared, obviously, but I’ve always managed to deal with it and push through. PND has totally sapped that quality from me. On a whole I feel more frightened and, at times, sheer vulnerability courses through my veins. But I feel confident at the moment and I think it’s due to a factor of things.
I think with PND, that more than ever you need someone to hold your hand and guide you. It has to be in combination of a variety of people because it is just so all-consuming, even for loved ones. It really is a debilitating illness and I just want to use my blog to start the conversation. If one woman reads this and feels less alone in her journey then I can sleep happy tonight.
Truthfully, I don’t give a fudge if people think differently of me for having Post Natal Depression or if I end up taking medication to help me recover from it. That’s solely their problem, not mine.