Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Rhino, The Quicksand and The Badger - Continued.

So as I mentioned last time, I hadn't told anyone how I had been feeling. The day I told my mum, I hadn't planned on telling her. I went to my parents house and sat down in the kitchen. I was noticeably quiet and not myself usual smiley self. 
This is a picture of me trying to cover up my insecurities and pretending things are okay. I found it difficult to come out of my shell but my friends (especially Sophie at this particular party, was the most helpful person. Having experienced depression herself and known me since birth, she knows just how my mind works and just how to make me forget how I'm feeling. Even if it is just temporary, I can be in an imaginery happy world for a bit and almost feel normal.)
Me, typically happy and smiling. 

She asked me how I was and I just started crying. She hugged me and immediately went into caring mumsy mode and did what she knew she could do, use her skills as a GP to try to help. She asked me if I would be willing to answer some questions from a typical depression assessing tool called a PHQ-9 (Patient health Questionnaire). It was the first time I had ever done one and little did I know that I would be doing this questionnaire hundreds of times in the months to come. 
It is scored out of 27 and it gives a guideline to what severity of depression you may be experiencing.
0 – 4
5 – 9
Watchful waiting; repeat PHQ-9 at follow-up
10 – 14
Treatment plan, considering counselling, follow-up and/or pharmacotherapy
15 – 19
Moderately Severe
Immediate initiation of pharmacotherapy and/or psychotherapy
20 – 27
Immediate initiation of pharmacotherapy and, if severe impairment or poor response to therapy, expedited referral to a mental health specialist for psychotherapy and/or collaborative management.

I scored 24. I can't describe what my mum was feeling, all I know is what she has told me and that is that she felt guilty she hadn't noticed earlier. The thing was, I hid it. I tried to act as normally as possible in front of people because it was not only embarassing but I was afraid that people wouldn't take me seriously.  Despite the fact that I know all my family and friends are very caring, both my parents are GP's and I know they wouldn't brush it off. But at the time, I was thinking negatively about everything. I was self-conscious, paranoid and I thought everything was pointless.

I even managed to acquire a job at wetherspoons when I was feeling that bad. The morning of my interview I collapsed on my bedroom floor and cried. I knew it wasn't normal. I was so fed up with life and I knew I didn't want to die but part of me really did want to give up. I was so anxious that I was shaking. I get anxiety not just when it would be normal to have anxiety like when I was due to have an interview, but also randomly and unexpectedly. I have been advised since then to tell people when I am feeling anxious as keeping it to myself can only make it worse. When I do tell people, they always seem to ask the same question "Why?".

I would like to make this very clear, being anxious and being nervous are not the same thing. They feel very similar but they are called different things for a reason. Anxiety is fear of the unknown. Usually when you are nervous it is because there is something to be nervous about. When I feel anxious, it can come from anywhere, I could be sitting in my flat, completely comfortable and I will get this horrific feeling like there is a Rhino running towards you. Impending doom. Anyway, I managed to make myself look presentable and just went in thinking I had nothing to lose. 

My mum arranged an appointment for me to see my GP, at this point I was struggling to come to terms with how I was feeling. I felt confused and my brain just felt fuzzy. I couldn't concentrate on simple things like reading or even watching TV. I constantly had thoughts whirling around my head, I didn't want to accept that I had a mental illness. I thought I was being dramatic and over reacting. I was overly sensitive with regards to anything people would say, If they mentioned anything about me I would take it the wrong way. I didn't do it deliberately, I just thought people were judging me when really it was me thinking in a negative light. 
My GP started me on an antidepressant called Fluoxetine which is Prosac. Many people are against using antidepressants as they don't like the idea of messing with their brain chemistry and that they will become dependant on them. I, on the other hand really felt like I needed them. People say you should concentrate on what has caused the problem and find a solution to why you may be feeling that way. I do agree that medication is not the be all and end all, as I have had counselling too. However, at my worst I could barely talk, it took a huge amount of effort to even say one word answers. So using an antidepressant was important for me at the time to at least make my brain wake up a bit so that I could be more responsive. There's no point trying to have counselling or people asking you questions about how you feel when one of the problems is actually expressing yourself. 

Around the same time that this was happening, I was meant to be attending lectures at university with an exam approaching. My closest friend at university - Joanna, had started to notice that things weren't right but sadly her Nana was very ill around this time and was spending more time at home in the Midlands. I felt very guilty that I wasn't supporting her in a way that I usually would for a friend in a time of need but I was so consumed by my depression that I was barely able to look after myself let alone other people. When I was in lectures I would avoid speaking where I could and if people talked to me I would pretend nothing was wrong. It was very difficult to cover up and I was surprised no one actually mentioned anything sooner, not that I wanted them to. I wasn't that close to the people in my group at that point that I felt I could tell them my problems, I didn't even want to talk to any of my closest friends about it at first. I was missing time off university as I felt too tired to go in, my motivation was very low and even when I was in lectures I couldn't concentrate. I could spend a whole lecture just sitting wallowing in my feelings, unhelpful and negative feelings. 

Joanna told me that her Nana passed away and that she would be going to the funeral over the weekend before the exam. I realised that it was a very stressful and understandably sad time for her so I didn't want to load her with my sad feelings too. I thought it would be inappropriate to tell her how I was feeling when I felt that she had something to be genuinely sad about. When she came back up she visited me at my parents house, I think by this point she was aware something wasn't right as I had been spending more time there and well, I looked like shit. She came into the living room and my mum told her what had been happening, it was at this point that we really bonded as friends. We decided we would go through this tough time for both of us together. 

The day of the exam came and we went to the university office early to hand in a PECs (Personal extenuating circumstances) form each. It was important for us to do this as neither of us had efficiently revised for this exam and we weren't mentally fit for an accurate result. When handing in a PECs form, you must provide evidence of why your situation will effect your marks. I took in a photocopy of my medication and a doctors note and the university made joanna bring in a copy of the funeral program which they needed to photocopy. We looked like a pair of sad messes, Joanna being understandly upset and me looking like a zombie. When we went into the exam, we sat in our places and stared into space for a while. When it began I couldn't really concentrate and felt like everything I was writing was utter jibberish. After that we had a week or two off until we were back at university. I don't really remember what I did during those weeks so I can only try to look back in my diary to see. 

This blog will continue at a later date. Please feel free to write comments and/or ask questions.

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