Thursday, 21 July 2011

STIGMA HAS TO STOP PT.2

''A QUEEN is not born, but made through steel and suffering''.


I didn't take the anti depressants, I was too scared after my reaction to the ssri I had tried two years previously. But the contact with a doctor who seemed to understand the way I was feeling helped me to try to tackle my problems. I went to counselling, I don't know what I was thinking, attempting to get therapy at that point but as my doctor suggested it I thought it would be a good idea. 

It wasn't. I wasn't able to concentrate for more than a minute such was the severity of my anxiety and I was exhausted, it was an ordeal just trying to get dressed and get out the house. It didn't help that I was assigned to, what I now know to be a negligent counsellor after training in counselling myself.

She was unempathetic, suggested ridiculous reasons for my ending up in this state and talked about herself the whole time. My anxiety got worse, it escalated to such a degree that I wandered how on earth I would ever feel normal again, but I kept on going to see the crap counsellor until she cancelled an appointment one day and left the practice, just like that. 

She had raked up all sorts of deep rooted issues within me, suggested I had been through things that I hadn't and maintained that I had just repressed the memories of what she thought could have happened. 
She left me in such a panic with no explanation or way to reconcile my feelings that I became obsessional about what she had suggested, had I gone through things she thought I had? 

I reasoned that I had never disclosed any such information to her and that she was merely trying to fit symptoms to possible causes that she probably read in a self help book somewhere, but my anxiety was so severe at that point that I was unable to question her motives or her professionalism, even her qualification.

I felt I was losing my mind such was the turmoil she had created and i went back to the doctor and told him everything and how i was feeling and what i had been experiencing. He was disgusted and horrified and explained that she was probably trying to employ some psychoanalytic technique or other without the proper qualifications. 

He said that it was a common problem amongst counsellors who are not qualified to diagnose and who make suggestions which are completely unfounded. It causes untold damage in clients presenting with anxiety and agreed that her crap therapy had exacerbated my anxiety. 

I felt like crying but i was numb, i felt like I was losing my mind, I was terrified, exhausted, severely underweight, isolated and unsupported but I had tried so hard to get better. I wanted so much for the counsellor to help me but I got another smack in the face. I didn't feel like I could go on, The anxiety had become acute and I was now apparently demonstrating ocd whatever that was. 

The doctor referred me to the community mental health team as he felt I needed additional support, which I definitely did, but as soon as I heard the word CPN, I practically gave up fighting there and then. If I needed a psychiatric nurse I must be mental right? That's what people would say I was sure. 

I went home and cried all night in bed and stayed there. I didn't get out of bed the next day or the next day or the next day and when the CPN turned up i hadn't managed to eat more than one thing or shower all week. I didn't care anymore, it was useless, I was petrified all day and all night, I couldn't sleep, was unable to take medication as I was terrified it would make me feel like I was insane(like it did last time) and I was extremely worried that I would be contaminated by illicit drugs. 

Don't ask me where that worry came from, I don't know, such is the strangeness of mental illness. But it became a very real fear, what if people were trying to contaminate my food with drugs, and my drink, that too. Whatever little food I was eating before became even less now that I thought my food may be contaminated too.

I refused to eat outright, I washed my hands continually all day long, wouldn't leave the house at all, was still having numerous panic attacks and basically had no other thoughts other than intrusive, highly repetitive worry thoughts.

I told the CPN I thought I was officially mental and he told me I wasn't, I said yes I was officially mental my thoughts are weird and disturbing, I scare myself. He told me that I wasn't mental but that I had ocd that had become debilitating. I was not experiencing psychosis because I was 'only worried' that my food could 'possibly' be contaminated, I didn't actually believe that my food had been contaminated. 

This was true, I knew my food hadn't been contaminated, but the fear that it possibly could be was so real and overwhelming that I refused to eat. I suspect that certain things that had occured in the past had decided to come back and manifest themselves in this way, In this lack of trust and deep seated fear that someone wanted to harm me. 

On a rational level I understood this and what was going on, I instinctively knew that it was some subconcious fear and trauma expressing itself, but I had no idea how to reconcile it without the right therapy and ocd in it's very nature doesn't listen to reason. It is an impulsive and debilitating anxiety disorder that is very difficult to manage.

What followed was a whole year of extreme anxiety and agorophobia which left me housebound, unable to socialize work or even pop to the shops. It was the most awful year of my life. My CPN worked to try and get me out and of course I lied and told him that I had been taking the happy pills and that I was getting better. I don’t advocate lying but in this instance I believe it saved me from getting caught up in the mental health system, being hospitalized and medicated. 

I knew instinctively that my problem would not benefit from this type of treatment, I was sensitive to medication and wasn’t prepared to go down that road, it would only mask my problem, not treat the root cause.

Eventually I was discharged by the CPN and once again was left all alone. My saving grace came in the form of a book I had ordered on the internet ‘Optimum nutrition for the mind’. I wanted to try and stabilize my mood by eating the right foods but what I hadn’t been ready for was the fact that I may have food allergies and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  The lovely doctor had mentioned a while back that certain foods can affect sensitive people and this book seemed to confirm that research.

All my symptoms were there, dizziness, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, compulsions, crying spells. When I looked at how little I had been eating and what I had been eating, which was mainly wheat and caffeine, it made sense that I would have blood sugar problems and a wheat intolerance.

 I don’t know how to explain this other than the fact that I knew this was a large part of what was making me ill, I just felt it deep in my stomach. I had to get tested for food allergies, I was tested from home, had to take a loan out to afford it and guess what, I was right, I had a severe allergy to wheat and egg and milk.

I got to work right away, cutting out caffeine and wheat, I was still housebound and still very anxious and had ocd, but within 4 weeks my symptoms had dissipated to such an extent that I could go half a day without checking things and having panic attacks. 

Things just got better from there, I could sleep, had more appetite and eventually after two months of my mood evening out was able to get outside for the first time! I was scared but so happy, I cried tears of joy. For the past year I had been on a hellish journey where I thought I was losing my mind, If only someone had told me that I could get better just by a simple change in diet!

It took me a long time to get better, to rebuild my life, my friendships but I did it. I got the help I needed from specially trained nutritionists who worked in mental health, A fantastic person centred counsellor who helped me to look at my past, and from me.
 I kept hold of myself, gritted my teeth and refused to let it beat me, and I did it entirely alone.

These days I am no longer agorophobic. I have traveled, studied, worked and have a fantastic relationship. I am still prone to anxiety and ocd, I believe my physiology makes that so, but I am no longer overwhelmed by my problems and haven’t been for 9 years, Neither have I taken medication in that time. It is about how I manage my life, I cannot eat the foods I am intolerant to for very long, if I do I can feel my anxiety coming back, which proves to me that I absolutely do have an anxiety reaction caused by food allergies.

 Now you all know why I am soooooo boring when it comes to my diet and not drinking alcohol! I also have to look at stressful situations carefully and understand my reaction to them. If I become too involved I can get anxious and I really need to look after myself so, wherever possible I try to keep myself calm and if life presents something nasty I walk away because I know my limits and these days I put myself first.

 I don’t believe that just because life throws something bad at you, you just have to stck with it. We all have choices in life and we all get stress, but I will never allow myself to go back to how I was nine years ago, no one and no situation is worth that.

That’s the upside of mental health, it makes you discerning, you look at any situation and make good choices because you know you have to look after your health. It makes you sensitive to others needs, it gives you empathy and sensitivity but above all, you value the good things, you don’t waste time doing something you hate.

A common fallacy about those with mental health is that they are lazy weak and self absorbed. To anybody who says that I laugh in your face. You have no idea the strength and guts it takes to overcome an illness so terrifying on your own. Weakness is not managing a mental illness, it is ignorance. Most people who experience mental health are exhausted and have used up all the chemicals in the brain that keep you happy and calm due to the stress of it all. Reserving energy when you are not bio chemically making any is stoical not lazy.

It is a real shame that the area of diet, deficiencies and allergies in relation to causal effects of mental health are not generally accepted in traditional medicine. Privately many psychologists have researched the links and absolutely believe that certain illnesses are caused by deficiencies in susceptible people. I hope that in the future diet and such will be considered and invested in before a person is offered medication. Something so simple could save a life. It saved mine.



3 comments:

Jules McVey said...

Another strong, personal post. It was good to read about your proactive strategies however I am so enraged by your experience with the 'counsellor', that was obviously detrimental to your MH. That's awful, and can clearly do harm. But I was delighted to read that once again you had confidence to speak to your GP. I was also struck by your mixed experience with the CPN. That person was sensitive and timely, yet it feels that there came a point in which you departed from their recommend care. Whilst this was right for you, it is an interesting position to explore. Compliance with care programmes can only really work when both parties are in agreement. The consistent review of care as the needs of the service user change is imperative, otherwise both the service and the user begin to take alternative routes and perhaps a meaning of 'wellness' of the individual changes.  Observing the rights of the service user is very important, and I'm keen to champion that. But with my professional hat on the interface of compliance and consent to treatment and support is a key issue - when do we (health professionals) 'over support' and when do we let people down? (Obviously this must be balanced for those in whom the judgment to not follow care plans/take recommend medication may lead to dangerous consequences.)... Maybe that's a blog for a later date! 

Anonymous said...

It is really interesting that link between food and mental health, I read an article somewhere once where it said that people who consume a high intake of caffeine can actually show symptoms of anxiety.
i used to drink loads of the stuff and felt crap.
When i stopped i got bloody terrible headaches and i was cranky as hell, but i did feel so much better after that.
Thanks for sharing......

Doria said...

Awe a happy ending. Im so glad. That is interesting how the foods and allergies were affecting you like that. *hugs*

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