Saturday 24 June 2017

Mental Health Diagnosis: One Year On

Mental Health Diagnosis: One Year On mental illness wellbeing OCD depression help support anxiety bipolar panic attacks storytime Mind time to change

A year ago today I was formally diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, although I knew that I was suffering from the illness long before that. It was also the day that Britain found out they were leaving the E.U so a pretty awful day for most of us in the U.K. actually? I remember the day vividly. I had an 8:30 am appointment which is just as well really because I had a three-week wait before then and it was the longest three weeks of my life.

I got up, found out we were leaving the EU and then made my way over to the doctors. I was a nervous wreck, but I knew I couldn't carry on the way I was. I needed help. And help I got. A prescription of 25mg of fluoxetine was put in my hands, and I was told to make an appointment with a counsellor at the surgery. 15 minutes later I was on my way home, partly relieved that he didn't dismiss my condition but also scared. 

I knew I couldn't keep it a secret from you guys. So I sat down and wrote a blog post about my experience. It's incredibly raw and honest. You can read that blog post here. I can't remember the rest of that day to be honest. It's all a bit of a blur. I remember being frightened that I was going to be taken away and locked up for admitting I had something wrong with my mental health. Of course, that wasn't the case. 

The three months that followed that day were incredibly difficult. I spent most of the time in my house, locked away from the outside world. Most of my weeks were spent at the doctors or the pharmacy. I was hurting, both physically and mentally. My compulsions were getting worse. I was pouring neat bleach over my hands up to five times a day. My hands were bleeding, cracked and sore. I could spend up to half an hour washing my hands which I would have to repeat every time I touched or did anything. 

Mentally, I was exhausted. OCD got in the way of everything. At my worst point, I was waking up in the night in a panic I wasn't clean enough. My illness was taking over, and I was quickly surrendering to its every word. I went to my first counselling session in August. I was referred to a group therapy CBT course which I went to in September once a week. You can read my experience of that here. Long story short, I wasn't ready to change, and the therapy didn't help. 

I carried on at college, doing my best but things went down hill again. I went through a particularly bad episode of depression followed by a few weeks of constant panic attacks. It's safe to say things weren't easy. I kept doing the best I could despite wanting to leave every single day. On the surface, I seemed to be doing okay. My grades were going up, and I was still attending lessons. On the outside everything was fine, little did my teachers know the internal battle I was going through every single day. 

The new year wasn't much better. It had been six long months of waiting for one to one NHS CBT. I was getting desperate. My OCD wasn't getting any better, and it was starting to really interfere with my work and everyday life. I decided to be able to stay at college I needed help now, so private therapy seemed like the only option left. 

Of course, like London buses, once I decided to have private therapy, everything came along at once. I got the letter through for my first CBT session, and college decided to wake up and offer me counselling there too. Things were looking promising. 

Mental Health Diagnosis: One Year On mental illness mind support help OCD depression anxiety panic attacks story blogger UK

Over the next month or so I had three therapy sessions a week; CBT from the NHS, EMDR private therapy. (If you want to know more about EMDR therapy you can check out a post I did about it here) And mindfulness/ traditional talking therapy from college. I personally found the CBT and the EMDR the most helpful. The mindfulness did nothing for me. I'm not the sort of person who has the patience to sit and do breathing. I'm a busy gal. It's safe to say that just didn't work for me. 

Over time, I slowly cut down the hand washing, threw away the empty bottles of hand sanitizer, ate with my hands instead of plastic cutlery and started touching things around the house. It seems so strange to think a year ago I was in such a different place. I haven't cut all my compulsions out completely. There's still a way to go, but I'm incredibly proud of how far I've come. 

Around Easter this year I felt back to my usual self again. I was happy, bubbly and enjoying life. I think the pink hair helped a lot. I was taking on more and more. Things were all going great until about a month and a half ago I noticed some changes in my mood. My personality is neither depressed nor hyper, so when I started experiencing these seriously bad lows and incredible highs, I knew something wasn't quite right. What scared me the most was how quickly my mood changed from buzzing with excitement to crying my eyes out over nothing. I felt like I had no control over what was happening to me. 

The lows became worse. When asked what I was crying over, I couldn't give an explanation, which made getting help that bit more difficult. 

During the year, I have taken lots of different medications for my mental health. Different dosages and types of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. It's hard to say if these have actually worked or not. That's the thing with drugs. They cause side effects. Yes, antidepressants cause depression, so it's hard to know if you are treating an illness or side effects or if your okay but the side effects are an illness. Confusing, right? 

I guess that brings us up to the current day. I still struggle daily with my mental health, in particular depression. Thankfully, my OCD doesn't have as much of a hold on me as it once did. I'm currently still on all kinds of meds, I go to CBT, have EMDR therapy and have now been referred to a community mental health team for specialist care. 

So not really a fairytale style happy ending, nor a complete Shakespeare tragedy. That's one of the biggest things I have learnt in the past year. Mental health recovery is not a linear process. It takes time, lots of time and lots of ups and downs. Even on the darkest of darkest days, I try to remind myself how far I've come. Recovery is possible, and even though I can't always see it, I know that it's there.

This past year has been one extremely hard uphill battle, but things have and are currently still improving. Thank you to everyone, who has been there for me in the last year. Your continued support means everything to me. I can't put how grateful I am for everyone into words so I won't try. 

So, from the bottom of my aching heart, thank you for reading, as always X 

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