I want to talk about mental health, and more specifically, medication. I’m very open about the fact I have suffered with depression and anxiety for many years. This is for the most part linked to dad’s journey with cancer and the subsequent grieving process. I have had around 6 or 7 counsellors in the last 7 years; CBT with the NHS, private psychotherapy, grief counselling, Macmillan support and my most recent counsellor, Lisa, who is an energy psychologist. Lisa is probably the first counsellor I’ve really connected with and felt able to be completely honest in my weekly sessions. I even cried once, which for me, is a big deal.
I have also tried 3 different types of medication over the last 7 years. When dad first got diagnosed, I started taking Sertraline to help me cope, I took this for a couple of years and my dose was quite high. I used to have the most vivid dreams, and woke up drenched and shivering where I had night sweats. I also took Zopiclone to help me sleep. Zopiclone is fantastic stuff; it’s a hypnotic so literally knocks you out for 8 hours. Unfortunately the doctor took me off it when she realized I had been taking it for 5 years. Coming off of Sertraline wasn’t a fun experience; the withdrawal left me feeling pretty horrendous for a couple of weeks, nausea, vomiting & dizziness were the worst.
I did a couple of years without meds but went back to the doctor when my anxiety piqued a couple of years ago. This time I tried Pregabalin, a drug I had heard about in my job as a mental health support worker. While I was on Pregab, I experienced the worst dissociation I’ve ever had. I felt like nothing, and no one was real, I didn’t feel anything towards anyone, it was like everyone was a stranger, including myself. I guess it numbed my feelings so badly that I didn’t feel anything at all.
When I came back from Sri Lanka in December 2018 I had a bit of a meltdown over Christmas and booked myself in to see Lisa in January. I saw her weekly until I left in January 2020 and she helped me in ways I cannot describe. She uses parts work, where you confront and try and understand the different parts of you that contribute to making decisions. For example I have anxious parts, controlling parts, vulnerable parts, protective parts etc. This method of counselling was revolutionary for me and I can’t recommend Lisa highly enough.
Sunday February 10th 2019 was the 3 year anniversary since my dad died, and I also saw my ex for the first time since we broke up a couple of months before. I went to work on the Monday and just couldn’t stop crying, the tears just kept streaming out and I couldn’t stop them. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion and couldn’t contain it. I signed myself off work for that week and just cried, every single day. I also went to the doctor and got put on a base dose of Fluoxetine which I have been taking since (great stuff, no side effects).
However, about 5 weeks ago I decided to stop taking these tablets (I had discussed it with my doctor before leaving England, never stop taking meds without discussing with your GP). So that’s it, I’m now going solo in my mental health management, no medication, no counsellor, just me and my broken brain, and it feels pretty awesome. I write in a journal and I do yoga most days. I try to make sure I have timeout when I need it and I’m open with people about my mental health, which I think is really important.
I don’t think medication or counselling are something to be ashamed of. I have always openly told people I have weekly counselling. I see it as an investment in yourself and your future. Mental health medication has saved me at times in my life where I felt I had no other option, and I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
If you are struggling you can contact the Samaritans (UK) Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline) or visit www.samaritans.org 0900060000000