Welcome to week 3 of my help for mental health series. This evening I’m joined by a brilliant blogger friend – Ciara – who’s talking about her experience of gaining help for her mental health struggles.
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS DETAILS OF DEPRESSION. PLEASE BE MINDFUL BEFORE CONTINUING.
I’m Ciara, and I blog over on ciarawithac.com. I’ve suffered with my mental health from my early teens, but never thought about looking for help until I was around 19. I wasn’t sure what I was seeking help for at the time, because in my eyes I’d just let my emotions get the better of me, damn you puberty and all that. When I did seek help the first time, it was depression and the second time it was anxiety, which I guess I kind of knew about.
Going to the doctor was hard, and I found it very difficult to actually make the appointment, so at first I relied on the help of other people. The problem with this is that nobody else really understood what was happening inside me. While people I knew suffered with it were helpful in that they tried their best to convince me that it wasn’t the end of the world, they weren’t saying anything that was making me FEEL better. I spoke to people who hadn’t experienced any kind of mental health problem, and while some of them were incredibly supportive, others told me to cheer up – literally, get a grip and cheer up. This naturally made me feel a million times worse. While talking to different people is really, really important, I would always suggest speaking to a professional. Once I’d plucked up the courage to do that, I honestly remember feeling lighter walking out of the doctor’s surgery than I did walking in. I also dabbled in CBT for a while, which hasn’t helped me, so I’m waiting for a referral to psychotherapy (doesn’t sound terrifying at all, does it?)
It can take a while to find a doctor who understands you and wants to help you. This was the first thing I learnt when I began to seek help for my array of head issues. I wouldn’t say I had any doctors that were terrible, but my previous ones never really got me. I spent a lot of time walking into various appointments with various doctors sobbing or unable to breathe, and it took a good deal of swapping until I found the doctor I’m with now. He’s incredibly helpful, I never feel rushed when I’m trying to speak to him, and I never feel like an idiot. He’s also helped me find the medication that best fits me. When I first started taking something for my mental health, I was put on citalopram. I experienced terrible side effects from the beginning, but the one I couldn’t handle was feeling suicidal. While I will say I’ve had some rather distressing thoughts, never had I experienced ones like these. Obviously I was terrified so I stopped taking them, went back to another doctor who asked me to try fluoxetine. These just did nothing for me, except make me feel like I literally had no feelings, and everyone needs one or two every now and then, right?. I moved away from home just after I turned 20 so obviously I needed to find a new doctor. Before I went to him for anything to do with my mental health, I started experiencing panic attacks, slight agoraphobia and severe symptoms of anxiety. I’ve written about that here. It was this that made me go back, and I met my current doctor. He sat down with me, made me go over every single symptom I’ve ever felt and every single event in my life. We finally settled on some medication and the side effects almost made me stop taking them. I felt sick, blacked out, had the shakes constantly. I had severe night sweats and headaches, I was drowsy but didn’t sleep more than about 30 minutes every night, even with prescribed sleeping pills. Every single time I took 50mg of sertraline I wanted to throw it on the floor and stamp on it. After about 2 and a half weeks of the nastiest symptoms I’d ever felt, they slowly subsided, and another 2 weeks after that, I slowly began to feel like a normal person.
Although the side effects were truly terrifying, I’m so thankful I persevered – these tablets changed my life. Of course, since diagnosis, which was around 3 years ago now, my dosage has been upped a couple of times, but I don’t care about that. They don’t make me feel emotionless like the fluoxetine and they don’t make me feel suicidal like the citalopram, they make me feel like me.
If there was one thing I’m more passionate about than my cats, it’s seeking help for your mental illness. It’s not fair for you to go through life in emotional pain which does become physical. It’s terrifying and it will take time before you find an approach and a doctor and even a medication that works for you, but you will do it. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take the steps to get yourself better. Although it might seem hopeless now, there’s another person waiting inside you, and your life will change when you help them break out.
I would like to say a huge thank you to Hannah, my fellow mental health warrior, for giving me the opportunity to write for her.