September 12, 2014

It is now a month since the sad loss of actor Robin Williams, who experienced severe depression. Blogger Cara talks about how mental health problems can affect anyone. Cara

Mental health is a hot topic at the moment. The sad loss of Robin Williams gave everyone a forum to give their opinion on mental health; the thing that has astounded me after that tragic event is that there continues to be a huge ignorance around mental health, why?

I have suffered from depression and severe anxiety throughout the majority of my adult life. The funny thing is I didn’t know it. I didn’t just wake up one morning and think “oh dear, I am depressed today”, it took years before I realised that I needed help as “something” was wrong. I am young, reasonably successful and very confident, to the outside world at least. I have amazing friends, a loving partner who is also my best friend and a close knit family – what the hell did I have to feel depressed about? “Get a grip”, “Have a word with yourself”, “Snap out of it”, “What is WRONG with you”!! The trouble is, when you do not know what is wrong or just how much your behaviour has changed, where do you start, how do you seek help?!

I felt I had no control over day to day life

I began to realise something was wrong when I wanted to sleep, sleep a lot. I was subdued in social situations and felt I had no control over day to day life. I was snappy, emotional and often downright horrible to those I love. I had no patience and no matter what my nearest and dearest did, it just wasn’t good enough, and in fact they just irritated me!

My anxiety really kicked in and most days I couldn’t get on the tube to work without my medication and my partner. He would patiently stand talking to me, playing with my hair, distracting me and encouraging me to breathe through the panic attack that had me feeling I was having a heart attack. The pain in the chest, numbness in the arms, the inability to catch your breath, the fear…the unexplainable fear.

Eventually after long discussions with my partner “something has to change”, I went to the doctors. What to say?! “There is something wrong with me, but I can’t tell you what it is because I don’t know”. I was lucky to have a brilliant GP who’s careful questioning and understanding manner made me feel comfortable enough to open up. Did I think about taking my own life? – Sure, Was I self-medicating with drugs or alcohol – no, not self-medicating, just living the life of a young woman in a big city, surely everyone drinks an excessive amount, no? At the end of the consultation she told me I needed help, what form did I want it in? A shrink, I don’t think so! Group counselling, definitely not!

The one thing I realised? I was ill

I was prescribed medication in increasing doses. I was given advice on positives to implement in my life and encouraged to join CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I went and spoke with my GP every two weeks, opened up to my friends and family and made a conscious decision to change my behaviours – this wasn’t easy but each and every time I spoke to someone, I felt a little better, a little prouder. The one thing I realised? I was ill, this wasn’t something I could “Snap out of” nor could I just “Get a grip”. My mind was sick and I needed to help it to heal.

Of course it didn’t just happen overnight but slowly and surely over 18 months my life came back, I vividly remember sitting at my desk at work and a feeling came over me, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was – then it hit me, contentment. It was a long time ago that I last felt that.

With the support and love and my family I am back

With the support of my amazing partner, network of friends & family I am now feeling much better, exercising regularly and enjoying a moderate lifestyle. They will never truly understand what happened to me and where I went too, I am not sure I will either. But with their love and support I am back and I am ready to start the happy part.

Mental illness is unique to every single person that suffers from it and there is no easy cure, however, we all have mental health and sometimes, like our physical health, it can become unwell.

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Comments

Thank you for sharing

Thank you Cara, for sharing your story of darkness into light. It's never easy to "expose" one's feelings of anxiety and instability. It is crucial that more of us who have come to recovery do so to help those who are in depression at present. I have had a psychotic episode followed by deep depression that came to an end through cognitive behavioural therapy. It wasn't available in the health service when I was ill. It is slowly been introduced more and more into health services here. I had to discover it separately in a lecture series called "Mood Matters" run by a wonderful psychologist called Shane Martin. I firmly believe it is a "science" that should be delivered through every educational programme from child to adult. I recognise that it may not work for every individual in depressed state. I also recognise that it does work for an overwhelming number of people. Since 2011 I have run a growing campaign called Let's Talk About It Wellbeing to promote the breaking of stigma, encourage wider debate on the whole subject of mental health and well being and to offer suggestion and fingerprint routes to recovery Be well, Cara. Continue to shine that light that may be a beacon to others in similar situations. Illuminate knowledge and break stigma among the unenlightened. Once again, thank you

I don't know where to start..

I don't know where to start.. I feel so numb for last 6 months I have been watching my life go by wishing I could enjoy it wanting to be so socialable but would rather hide away been on most antidepressants and nothing works my confidence is zero my memory dreadful feel like I have early dementia, my head is fuzzy sometimes feel so not with it.. Over eating is my medication.. I know this doesn't make any sense I can't vocalise how I feel.. I so admire people who get better how do they do it.. Going to cbt nothing is helping just want to be better

Thank you

Thank you for your kind comments. It is hard, but you will get better. Talk to a friend, doctor or local help group. Taking that first step will lead you on the path to recovery. Recovery is ongoing and "blips" do happen but keep focused on the positives.

mental health

You are amazing I have just read everything I feel right now. My family left me just as I realised I was suffering. I can't blame my partned but I still love her dearly and miss her and our children immensely. I don't know what to so or where to turn. I need my family but they don't need me right now and it's killing me. I have another new doctor to speak to as soon as appointment arrives but I don't have a support network around me as I've pushed hem all away. This blog has help me relise I'm not the only one who didn't know they were unwell and made me cry but still feel a bit better. I thank you from the bottom of my heart

Mental health

Hi Robert I can identify with all you say. I've recently separated from my partner, his choice, I pushed him away and his feelings have changed. I'm always seen as a strong person outwardly, but inside I'm crushed. I am trying to keep busy and look at everything positively, reading help books etc. but it doesn't take away the loneliness. I have amazing adult children, but do not want to burden them with my problems. You are not alone, we will all beat this together.

depression

I have been struggling with depression for many months now. My psychiatrist diagnosed me with major depression disorder along with generalized anxiety. He tried me on every medication available I think but nothing seemed to work. He then sent me to a major hospital here in Texas that does the ECT treatments, which shocks the brain. I had 21 and those did not help either. As a result of the treatments, I now have memory loss. I have had to give up my job of 18 years because I could not function by remembering things and bad concentration. I now sit home and deal with it the best I can. I do have some good days but bad days are still here, in fact today is one of them. I sit and cry for no reason. My anxiety level skyrockets. My psychiatrist has pretty much said he has done all he can do. I am now seeing a counselor but have only had 2 sessions and is hard to tell if this will help. I did the group therapy for awhile but the doctor there did not seem to think it was helping me. I have the best husband in the world who has put up with me through all of this. I have called the suicide hotline several times but I don't want to kill myself but I do feel like I just want to end it all some days. I am just waiting for the day that this leaves me forever but I am thankful for the good days.

Mental Health

Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of strength to share our stories and to admit when we were at our lowest. It's great to know you've found ways to cope with your depression and anxiety, this is one of the hardest things, especially when you're in the deepest throws of it all. It's fantastic you had the support of your loved ones, to me this is the most important part of being able to cope with mental health issues. For many of us, we are unbelievably lucky that they never gave up on us, even at our worst. Having a support system around you to help you through the tough times and be there with you through the best times is the best thing. For those who don't have a support system, it is imperative to at least have your doctor, therapist, psychiatrist...anyone, that knows what you're going through and can be there to check in with you and help you find your way through the dark. Stay positive and keep fighting the dark!

health anxiety

No one seems to talk about health anxiety and the way anxiety symptoms feed it

Thanks Cara

Thanks Cara - have just read this blog and it really sums up the last 4 months. I went to the doctor during a panic attack and she diagnosed me with anxiety. I looked online for everything that would possibly help, then implemented them and have gradually got better. I hate the way it creeps up on me. I wish I knew the exact cause. Much appreciated your honesty and positivity!

I'm really glad you

I'm really glad you eventually took action. The number of people who just say "I'll go to the GP another day" is incredible. There are numerous alternative ways to deal with anxiety and depression, including anxiety counselling, medication and routine. Having an easy to keep routine in place can help keep your mind calm, with an expectation of what is to come and thereby reducing anxiety.

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