Would it surprise you to know that 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with some form of mental health problem, in a year? Yes, that’s right and quite shocking for most to learn. It’s great to see that mental health awareness is slowly progressing, however we still have a long way to go in detaching the stigma around this topic. According to the statistics mental health and behavioral problems are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide, causing over 40 million years of disability in 20 to 29-year-olds. * The trouble is, that I feel we are still not being made aware enough by our doctors on catching the early signs of mental health problems; and by the time we realise what is actually going on, the problem has mushroomed up into a bigger problem.
This year my mental health took a toll on me, but I have also learned a lot. I suffer from Endometriosis and since my diagnosis five years ago life has not been the same. My life has consisted of endless hospitals appointments, chronic pain and soon I will be having my fourth surgery in four years! This in itself caused a lot of upheaval in my life. Earlier this year my husband and I made a big decision to relocate outside London and we found ourselves in a much quieter place, I found myself feeling very lost and insecure. I had left all my comforts behind, and city life was definitely something I missed, but I knew at the back of my mind it was a good decision for the betterment of our lives.
I soon found my health was deteriorating; I felt constant fatigue and wanted to sleep during the day. I thought it was just related to my Endometriosis, so at first I didn’t pay much attention to it. Not long after, my symptoms got worse; I started to experience nausea, sweating, dizziness, loss of appetite, constant fear and worrying, eventually this affected my sleep too and I found myself getting one hour of sleep per night, sometimes none at all. If I tried to sleep, panic and heart palpitations would wake me up! I was so tired that most days I felt like nothing was real, I would do every task with demotivation, and my brain fog was so bad that I once left the oven hob on and went out. I decided to see the GP and showed her my symptom diary, but after my blood tests came back normal, my GP simply said “well everything looks normal, I can’t say what’s wrong with you, but it might be chronic fatigue syndrome.” I burst out crying in her office, because I knew deep inside she was wrong. I was so overwhelmed and self-care went out the window, I became more reclusive and just wanted to be inside the house all day. I felt like I couldn’t rely on a health care professional and constant fear took over my life.
It wasn’t until I mentioned all this to my sister, that she immediately said, “this is anxiety, you need to get a therapist” because she had been through it herself, the signs were obvious. It all clicked together for me and I couldn’t believe that out of the three GPs I had seen, none could tell me that this was a possibility!
Following this, I told my GP that I had anxiety and I was referred for therapy. The medication offered to me was okay for sleep, but it made me foggy and sleepy the next day, and the beta-blockers did nothing at all. So during the day I was still suffering with high anxiety and fear. I then tried everything herbal and natural, but nothing was helping. The GP refused flat out to offer me any benzodiazepine type medications, because it’s addictive, however, I was at my wits end and needed help. I felt even more anxious and frustrated because I wasn’t being supported. At this point I had lost 4 kg in 3 months, at my pre-op for my upcoming surgery, the nurse said “you can’t loose anymore weight, it won’t be possible to perform the surgery.”
I had enough and spoke to my father (he lives back home), he talked to my GP, who immediately prescribed me a low dose of Xanax and since then this medication has been a lifesaver for me. In only three weeks, my life has been given back to me and I have zero side effects! The medication helps me to keep calm during the day and sleep well at night, it helped me go out on my own and feel interested in doing things, and my appetite has also improved massively. This combined with the CBT coping mechanisms with my counsellor, is making a huge difference. I’m finally feeling myself.
In my opinion, doctors need to support their patients better when it comes to mental health, and should be keeping an eye on them. Medications should not be refused simply on the basis that they are addictive; instead we should be monitored on them, short term. Don’t be afraid to do what you have to for your health, medication should not be a thing of shame and neither should your mental health. If you don’t feel supported by one doctor, then look for the right one until you have the right support.
Some signs to look out for:
- Struggling to sleep and eat.
- Being agitated.
- Feeling restless.
- Restless, agitated or irritated.
- A sense of unreality.
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts you’d be better off dead.
- Finding no pleasure in doing things.
If you feel any of the above symptoms are affecting you, see your doctor and get referred to a therapist that can assist you in coping mechanisms, in some cases you might need a combination of CBT and medication. Don’t be ashamed of asking for help, or talking about your feelings, make sure you have a good support network and always remember mental health is just as important as physical health!
Places you can call to ask for help:
By Elysha H.
Images by Pixbay