Sunday, 4 November 2012

How crazy am I?

"Crazy", "cray cray", whatever you want to call it these days, is a term that is still flung around with little to no real thought behind it and it seems every other person is calling someone "mental".

I am a firm believer that mental health problems run in families, I just have to look at my own and that of some of my friends to know this to be true. The problem used to be that in our grandparents generation, it was perfectly acceptable to lobotomise someone who was acting "insane", whereas if that person was to be medically treated today, their "insanity" would be named as disorders such as dementia, alzheimer's or schizophrenia and they would've got proper care.
It seems we have done a complete 180 turn and now I believe we have the beginning of an epidemic of young people who are being medicated heavily and, at times, this isn't enough without other forms of therapy. The stats say that one in four of us will suffer some kind of mental health disorder in our lifetime. With the pressures of day to day life, this does not surprise me, however I think so much more needs to be done for those suffering rather than just writing up a prescription and sending them out the door. In my city alone there has been a drastic increase in suicides amongst young adults - most of whom only received strong medication as a form of help. The current system is failing.

I will be honest and say that I have suffered severe depression in the past, it is a disease which is so debilitating that getting out of bed in the morning was a vast struggle (I now know having done my own research that a persons serotonin level is at its lowest in the morning time, which makes perfect sense as to why, at that time of day, I felt so awful) and living a normal happy life was impossible. Feeling useless, worthless and a burden on the family was just some of my symptoms, along with a constant black "fog" in my head which would sometimes leave me in a somewhat zombified state - I can even remember getting a bath one night and just sitting there until the water turned freezing and then physically being so drained I had to get my mum to lift me out. In a desperate bid to actually "feel" something when in these trance-like states, I would sometimes raise my hand and slap myself across my face as hard as I could. Those were the only times I hurt myself and that was defiantly my lowest point.

I cannot exactly pinpoint a trigger in my life which started this, I had some very sad traumas happen in my family such as both my mother's illness and my brother's attempted suicide in the past (my brother's failed attempt left him permanently brain damaged and I am now his primary carer) along with the sudden death of my father. Being bullied throughout my childhood and teen years has also defiantly left its impact and it saddens me that people still don't realise the longterm damage that can be done through bullying, or those who simply shrug it off as "kids being kids". Is it any wonder that I, and many others, found ourselves in a deep depression?
When I finally plucked up enough courage to ask for help, my doctor got me to fill out a questionnaire about how I felt. This alone I now feel is an awful technique as I felt so under pressure and put on-the-spot to answer these questions when I couldn't really focus on it. She then just sat there and marked my answers, tallied them up and told me what my "score" was. This "score" somehow told her what my level of depression was and so she promptly decided on giving me medication at a medium-high dose. The option for therapy was there, however I could only get the first six appointments free on the NHS and then have to pay for them myself. This is still the case today for some of my friends who, after the six weeks, find themselves at loss and end up falling back to where they started.

We live in a society where we shouldn't question what the doctor says, for they know the most about health and how to help us, so I didn't think anything of it and the next morning I started taking my "happy pills". It wasn't before long that I noticed that I felt worse, I was having really vivid, disturbing dreams and developed a teeth-grinding in my sleep (however, it can take a good few weeks for the medications to stabilise in your system and work properly). I also noticed how, for the first time, I had thoughts of a more serious self harm. These thoughts scared me so much that I started to do my own research and discovered that, under certain guidelines, the particular brand of anti-depressant I was on should not be given to young adults as it causes "thoughts of suicide and/or self harm". I promptly went back to my doctor and asked for alternate medications and more forms of therapy and was slowly weaned off the first batch of "happy pills". Regardless of what medication you are on, the most dangerous thing is to just stop taking them, so I knew to seek medical advice. I also questioned why I was put on that type of drug in the first place, I was simply told that "different countries work under their own guidelines and not necessarily that of the primary manufacturer". My advice to people is to ask as many questions as you wish when at the doctors about any kind of treatment you are to receive - that's what they're there for! If you don't agree with something, then get a second opinion from a different doctor.

Now, two years after my treatment begun, I'm much happier in myself and my depression has declined drastically. It is something that will always stay with me but having a better understanding of the disease defiantly helped me with my treatment. If anyone thinks curing mental illness is as easy as a trip to your G.P then you are sadly mistaken, it takes so much strength and inner power.
Unfortunately, there still seems to be this stigma attached to mental illness -  that it makes you "weak" and you should just "man up and get over it" - if only it was that simple! If only I could've just clicked my fingers and felt joy. Education is key for most issues in life, the more education we put out there, the more understanding there is. With a better understanding comes a greater need for change and with that, comes more resources that, most importantly, can get ongoing funding. These services are vital to help us, especially during this awful economic crisis which causes people so much worry and stress (which can then lead into full blown disorders).

By the media putting more articles out there for the world to read, by our own doctors giving us resources that we can look into ourselves, by television dedicating some of its primetime to programmes on mental health (and NOT in a scare mongering way) then hopefully drastic action will be taken to help save lives. If you are reading this and are suffering, I can promise you that you are not alone! Depression is not your fault! You will get better! Ask for help, as that was the best thing I ever did and has made me stronger as a woman for it.

For this is the reality; too many people have lost their battle with depression unnecessarily and we need to create change in their memory.

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