Friday 5 July 2013

The day I opened up about my Mental Health

Well I did it!

I finally spoke (honestly) about my declining mental health to my gp. I didn't think it'd be so difficult though. Ok, let's start at the beginning.

A few weeks ago I had my MRI and the radiographer (or assistant, I'm not sure) told me I would receive a letter within the next couple of weeks for an appointment with the doctor (the General Medical Practitioner) who sent me for the MRI (to discuss results etc). Fast forward a few weeks and I still hadn't received the letter. As my brain fog was so bad my mum rang the doctor's secretary for me to see what had happened about this appointment.

The reply annoyed me. First off, the MRI was clear (phew! In one way but annoying as invisible illness is still invisible) but, because of that, the doctor had decided to discharge me back to my GP with no follow ups or anything. Hmm, well the symptoms are still there, ruining my life, keeping me on ESA, making me feel TERRIFIED about my Atos appointment due to lack of evidence to show to prove that I am ill and it's not going away anytime soon.

You see, he'd originally said that he'd get the MRI booked and (at the same time) would refer me to a Rheumatologist. He lied.

Ok so, mum booked an appointment with my GP as I'd have to get a referral through her. I'm guessing it will take ages to get a rheumy appointment now as the referral isn't being done directly through the hospital. I just want to get well enough to work! I don't want to be unemployed for years and years because that will make it so difficult to even get a job.

Anyway, fast forward to the GP appointment (Wednesday). I'd compiled a list of what I wanted to talk about. Firstly, the referral. Secondly, the Pregabalin dosage (not doing a damn thing to alleviate nerve pain). Thirdly (one I was hesitant about), my extremely low moods/suicidal thoughts.

I felt quite nervous on the day of my appointment. Probably more for the third thing than anything else. She has been really good with listening and considering things I want to be done. Obviously I listen to her advice too! It's just nice to know that your GP is a path to further care, not a barrier.

I swear I spoke far too quickly during my appointment. I didn't think I made a lot of sense either. I'd written down what I wanted to say but the brain fog was back and I couldn't get my words out as fluently as I would've liked. Somehow she made sense of what I said though.

She said she'd get the referral done straight away. I was very relieved about that. The specialist for Fibromyalgia is supposed to be a Rheumatologist as far as I've been told so hopefully I'll be getting someone with a lot of knowledge about it (hopefully).

She also upped my Pregabalin dose. I was originally on 50mg a night (2x25mg tablets). I'm now starting on 75mg a night, going up to 75mg in the morning and 75mg at night (150mg in total so dose is tripled!). This sounds more like the dose I should be on, so hopefully I'll notice some kind of difference.

I did mention my Atos assessment coming up as well. I really am nervous about it and have left it too late to ring up and ask about having the assessment recorded. Stupid me. I think I'll just have to bite the bullet and try to deal with whatever is thrown at me now. I know I'm not well enough to work. God knows I've tried to think about what kind of things I could cope with in the workplace in my current condition, to no avail. I am not a scrounger. I need that ESA and I do intend to apply for work once I feel I could cope, and that it won't make me worse. I know there's not much my GP could say, just to mention that I am still under investigation although Fibromyalgia is the diagnosis I have been given. I'm guessing I should show my hospital letters too to show that I'm being taken seriously...

Ok, so by that time the GP was asking if there was anything else I wanted to talk about. I nearly said 'no' but I took a deep breath and started to tell her about how I'd been feeling emotionally/mentally.

I said I'd been having some very very low moods but I wasn't sure if it was worth mentioning because some days I actually don't feel so bad. I try and keep myself busy; doing things I enjoy. It's just that, the thing is, once I've stopped doing the things I enjoy, my moods go very low again. I beat myself up mentally, feeling guilty and worthless and frustrated that I can't do the things I used to (socialising lots, working, earning money, travelling). I wondered whether the 'good'/ok/not so bad moods I had were because I was distracting myself. Not letting myself think even. It's just all getting very hard to cope with.

At this point I had managed to burst into tears. I was very apologetic about it too. I hate crying when I'm trying to explain important things. I always think of myself as an emotional person but I hate, hate, HATE showing that kind of emotion. I think of it as a weakness. I don't see it as a weakness if anyone else does it but only when I do it. I felt that I had opened this floodgate (literally!) once I had broken through and spoken about my mental health. I'd completely let the barrier down and was ready to face the consequences. It was a bit of a relief but also left me feeling vulnerable.

I explained that I hadn't been very honest about my mental health with previous GPs as I was worried that all my physical symptoms would be attributed to a mental health condition, the physical symptoms would stop being treated and I would be given a load of anti depressants/anti anxiety meds again. That would be a huge step back for me. I don't have a problem with people taking these meds if they truly do help. What would give me the right to have a problem with that anyway? It's just that I want to TALK. That is the best treatment for my mental health.

The GP was actually amazing. Before I even had to explain, she said she knew that it was the physical illness causing the mental illness and NOT the other way round. She understood that chronic physical pain often went hand in hand with conditions such as depression and anxiety. She actually ASKED me if I wanted to try some anti depressants or if I wanted to consider counselling. Through my tears, I nodded for counselling. She gave me a self referral number to put myself on the waiting list to see someone. I was very grateful and the appointment ended there.

It felt like a very successful and productive appointment. We must've gone over the 10 minute limit but she listened to me, she was understanding, helpful and patient. I don't think I've ever had that with a doctor before and I appreciated it so much. It feels like half the battle has been won, just to have a co-operative doctor.

So, the next step is to actually call this number. Something I'm hesitant to do (I know, I should call soon) for a few reasons:

  • I'm still not very good with calling. Partly due to the brain fog, partly due to me getting nervous talking to someone I can't see. If I can email/write instead, I will take that option. At least with those forms of communication, I can explain myself properly and think about what I want to say. 

  • I have this real sense of not 'deserving' to call up for counselling. I'm still confused about the ok/almost good moods. I don't think they're that rare, they happen at least twice a week (I think) so are my bad moods consistent enough to warrant intervention? The reason I spoke to the GP was due to the fact they are there, they happen a lot and they are very bad. I do still get the days where I think about wanting to not live anymore. It's terrible I know. There are people in much worse positions but, it doesn't matter how much I think about that, it doesn't take away the fact that sometimes I don't see a point to living anymore. 

  • I worry that the counsellor will wonder what I'm even doing trying to get help with my mental health. Are these low moods just me moaning/complaining about things? Is it 'normal' to have these thoughts? I know I'm not coping with them very well. It almost angers me that I can't just throw away my feelings of guilt and selfishness and just get on with 'it'. I want to stop thinking in this way as I don't think it's healthy. 
I think my next post will probably be about the phonecall to the counselling service and/or the Atos assessment. I think I need to throw in something positive too, the posts have been a bit depressing recently. 

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