Wednesday 31 July 2013

My Healthy Minds Triage Appointment/Opening up

Slowly, I feel like this metaphorical weight is being lifted from my shoulders.

I had my telephone triage appointment today with Healthy Minds, this was to address my mental health. I was so nervous about it. I found it really difficult opening up to my gp, so I thought it'd be even worse with this person I didn't know. It actually wasn't.

When my appointment letter came through, it was accompanied by a questionnaire to address things such as Daily Living, Anxiety, Phobias and Low Mood. By each question, I had to score either how severely, or how often this issue affects me/is affected by my mental health. Obviously some of the points (like work, sleep problems, being able to socialise, lack of energy) I had to annotate as they are partly (or severely) affected by my physical illness too. I had to get this ready for today; when I was due to have my triage appointment.

The phonecall came dead on time and I spoke to a really friendly sounding Psychological Therapist. She explained things such as confidentiality, health and safety etc then we went onto the scores. I explained about my Fibromyalgia and Overactive Bladder and she was very understanding; knowing to take this into consideration with some of my responses.

I took a deep breath when discussing my score for the last question: "Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way". I'd scored that a 3, i.e. "Nearly every day". Obviously we had to talk about that in greater detail but she was very understanding and we had a really good chat about that. I'd not attempted suicide or actively planned to. I'd been close on really bad days though.

It's great that I can talk to some friends and family about this but I know I worry them too. If a friend or family member of mine was talking about this with me, I'd be as supportive as possible but it is so hard to be impartial as it would affect me and I'd be very upset that I couldn't help much. The therapist doesn't know me so we were able to talk about this in a matter of fact way and really get to grips with what makes me feel that extremely. She asked me what my strongest feeling was, and I said "Guilt". It's the guilt from my physical health declining so much and making me feel as if I am a burden to my family and friends. Those around me have to make a lot more effort to see me. Some understand, some never will and I have to accept that I can't always change that. Also, I can't help around the house as much as I'd like to. We could probably really benefit from having extra help round the house, but I doubt our needs would be seen as urgent or serious enough so we just have to carry on as best as possible.

We then went on to things I do in order to cheer me up. I talked about this blog, talking to loved ones and music. I guess sometimes this blog is like a journal to me. It's out there for everyone to see but the point is that I want to be more open about my physical and mental illnesses. There's no shame in it and if anyone has a problem with me being this open, frankly they can go swivel lol! It helps. I have got to know people more, through this. I have become closer to people as well so I would never regret writing this blog. The music is a great way to get creative. Sometimes (very rarely!) I can write lyrics. They usually end up as half finished songs but I always feel better after getting them down. I play flute, keyboard and guitar as well. I haven't got them out in a while but I'm working on it. I'd like to write a full song incorporating at least some of these instruments. Lastly, I enjoy singing. Apparently I sound good, although I'm very critical of my own voice. I didn't mention the baking but I enjoy that too! A lot of the time I will need help but to create something tasty is a real mood booster sometimes. I call it Baking Therapy.

*After this, she asked if there was anything else that I feel was having an impact on my mental health. Now this one was difficult. I've really been umming and ahhing about even mentioning it in this blog. I'm not sure who reads it and I certainly don't want to end up a topic of gossip but the whole point of this blog was to open up. Maybe I should just say? Ok, well I guess this has had an impact on my mental health to a certain degree because it's something I never really got closure from, it happened very quickly and I just had to 'get on with it'. When I was 19, and nearing the end of my first year at university, I found out I was pregnant. I'd not long broken up with the father and definitely didn't feel old enough to have children. Let me just say that I didn't feel that way about other people I knew who had children young! This is a personal thing. So I was close to my exams, felt really panicked and rushed so made the hasty decision to have a medical abortion. God this is so hard to talk about!! I can probably count on one hand the amount of people who actually knew about this. It was a really traumatic experience and I felt like I had to keep it private and just get on with my degree. I didn't talk to anyone in great detail about it. I had an amazing, AMAZING friend who took me to the appointments, was always there when I needed her and kept my secret. She really is a friend for life, I owe her so much. The nurses were honestly horrible. No support, just acting like I was a stupid teenager who got herself pregnant. It was protected for god's sake. Anyway, I wasn't offered any counselling, even though it was pretty obvious that I needed it. The whole time I was in tears, shaking. Anyway, so I went, had this done, didn't even tell my personal tutor about it and got on with my exams. It was pretty clear that this had an impact on my grades as I suffered a good couple of weeks of agonising pain. I had to just take my codeine, turn up and grit my teeth. I got through it though! And managed to pass my degree even though it was very difficult with all this going round my head. To this day I feel like I never got closure from this experience. I always wondered whether I made the decision too quickly, was I selfish for doing this? I also hope that this wasn't my only chance to have children. These are the things I need to address and get closure from.

Back to the phonecall. It was an amazing chat, she was so patient and understanding. We even spoke about my degree and how I'd like a similar job to her in the future! Although I was crying after, I did feel a bit better for getting this out. We then discussed the therapy options for me.

There's actually a therapy program for people like me, who have an ongoing physical illness that is now having an impact on my mental health. It's called the Expert Patient Programme. It'll be group sessions but I guess they'll be understanding of my physical needs (like being able to go to the toilet whenever I need to). Plus I want to push myself to be more comfortable in group situations. If I can do this, then I consider it a big personal achievement. Also, I'm being referred for one to one Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions. Although I've been open about it on my blog (and very nervous about what response I'll get now!) it's still something I need to discuss privately, alongside other feelings etc.

So that's the next step! I thought it'd be a lot more difficult to access the help but I actually feel supported in all this. I'm not miraculously cured and this is only the beginning of the journey, but it's a big step to take. And it wasn't as scary as I thought :)

Right, I need to eat now so must go! Thanks again to all my readers :)

*I'm really tempted to delete this part. I just don't know. It was such a private thing in my past but I suppose I have to be open about it so I will try and leave it here. Feeling so anxious right now!

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