Apparently people with mental health problems just need to “tell someone”

So Robin Williams has died.  Suicide.  And that’s sad as any death is.

Facebook is full of posts with his picture sharing phone numbers and websites of helplines.  Ones telling people that “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  And declarations that if you’re feeling down, if you have depression to make sure you tell someone.  Friend’s saying that they hope their friends feel capable of telling them.  And similar on twitter and other places.

Here’s the thing: I have a depression diagnosis and I have a lot of anxiety at times which has been recognised by medics although it’s never been given a label like GAD (generalised anxiety disorder).  It’s more than 11 years since one of my friends finally convinced me to go and see a GP about the way I felt.

I’d told someone.  I’d told her.  But she couldn’t physically make me go to the doctors and get help. She kept telling me I needed to and encouraging me to for at least six months.  I’d probably been depressed to a certain extent I had to do that myself (and unfortunately that meant things deteriorated because I didn’t go until I got scared about what might happen unless I did).

Then I went and told a GP.  It wasn’t my GP because my mine was a male and I thought a female doctor would be easier. It was a first step but it wasn’t the solution facebook seems to be suggesting it was.  Telling her wasn’t enough.  I needed her support but I also needed meds and I needed time.

That first type of antidepressants made me ill so I ended up telling most of my carers although I’d not meant to.  Several of them said “me too.” and I was shocked.  Telling people might have been easier if I’d known how common it was. I felt less alone.

I went back a few weeks later for review and I did tell my then GP because really I loved my uni GP because he also had CP and he got a lot of what I went through.  Over the years he’s been one of the few medics I’ve never had to convince that my depression isn’t caused by my CP. He’d seen me a lot in the months before for UTI and chest infections and I don’t know what else routine stuff.  And he apologised to me for missing my mental health problems.  It meant a lot to me but I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t blame him.  I’d hidden it.

And since then over the last 11 years I’ve been on and off of antidepressants.  I’ve told a lot of people about my mental health.

I’ve told friends.  Family. Doctors, counsellors, social workers. Carers and some other people too.

Sometimes it helps a lot.  Sometimes it helps a little.  Sometimes it doesn’t help.  And unfortunately sometimes it makes it worse.

I’ve had the response:

That I’m being silly

That I just need to stop taking antidepressants because they “are addictive and bad for you.”

That of course I’m depressed because I’ve got CP, what do I expect?

That things that have triggered bad times are in the past and I need to move on.

That I’m worrying about nothing

This too will pass

“you think you’ve got it bad I’ve blah blah blah” from a friend who kept telling me to tell her when things were bad.  She still does that now and she gets annoyed if she ever finds out I’ve not told her stuff.  But I’ve never, in more than 11 years since diagnosis been able to have a conversation with her about my mental health problems without it immediately being turned into something all about her.

Offering to listen and encouraging me to tell you about my problems is huge.  But I need you to actually listen.

How could you help someone in a mental health crisis:

Don’t use cliches like this too shall pass or the one I keep seeing today “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”.  Robin Williams had been undergoing treatment for various mental health conditions for over twenty years.  He had a real, serious illness not a temporary problem.  Calling it that belittles his suffering.

If someone tells you don’t try and make them tell you exactly what it is they have to be depressed or anxious about.  Mental health conditions can and do defy explanation.

Also, don’t make assumptions about causes.  I’m sure some of the counselling I’ve had would have been more effective if I’d not spent so much time trying to get it though the counsellor’s head that the fact I can’t walk had nothing to do with my mental health. The assumptions of a supposed link between my physical disability and my mental health condition make it harder in fact.

Only make offers of support that you genuinely mean.  If someone offers me the chance to talk but then tells me all of their problems rather than listening when I try to take them up on it I usually end up feeling worse because I feel alone and I’m worried about my friend.

Support takes different forms for different people.  I have issues with medication compliance.  Someone demanding to know everyday if I’d taken my meds (something one of my carers tried) didn;t help me.  But when I had a friend who was also struggling with med compliance we would tweet each other and check in every day or two sort of “I’ve managed my meds today, how’re you doing?” that really helped.

Don’t try to force a particular therapy or drug on someone.  Fluoxetine might be really great for people who have depression that worsens around their period.  I was on fluoxetine when I first started raising that issue and it didn’t help.  Sertraline did but all I kept being told from medics was “fluoxetine is good for that, perserve” until finally one switched me to sertraline for another reason.  Friends told me fluoxetine was good too.  It was good for me but it wasn’t the answer.

Just because you recovered doesn’t mean I will.  I care about how you’re doing but when I’m really struggling telling me that I only need six months of antidepressants doesn’t help.  And actually, the standard treatment isn’t six months of antidepressants.  it’s treatment until condition improves and then for another six months to ensure no relapse.

If the person in question is able to lead you in what support they need try to follow them.

But don’t, ever just tell someone to “tell me” if you have a problem and expect that to be the answer.  It’s a first step that you can take to helping them.  Telling you is a brilliant first step for the person with mental health condition.  But living with/treating/recovering from/whatever a mental health condition is a long, long journey.  And it needs more than that first step of talking about it.

Talking, Ten Years Later

It’s that time of the month again when I mosey on over to Bea Magazine and share what I’m thinking, feeling, doing, whatever with them.

I don’t like February. There have been a lot of tough times in previous ones and there are several anniversaries now in a short time. It’s been long enough now that most of their sting has gone but still it lurks. This year I remembered the dates but it wasn’t until several days into the month when I wondered why I felt down and put it together that its often a time I struggle.

Yesterday marked 10 years since I was first diagnosed with depression. It is what it is. I can’t change it and I’m not sure I would if I could.

I’ve written a bit about that over on Bea in Talking, Ten Years Later.

>(lack of) Progress Report

>I returned to the hospital last Thursday having had a couple of days without the casts.  It was very nice to be able to get up and get dressed when I wanted rather than when someone could help.  And to wear trackies and go sailing and have showers!  But equally I was very frustrated to not be in the casts because it almost felt like giving up without giving it the best possible shot.

My physio got me back in a standing frame for a few minutes when I got there and she measured the angles of my ankles which were the same as they’d been on the Monday.  That was huge because apparently she would have expected some deterioration.

 I was and still am a bit confused by the measurements she got as for my whole life my left side has been substantially worse than my right but this time the left was a lot better that my right.  That could be something to do with the way I stand and compensating.  I didn’t really understand.  I stand in a really screwy way which she tried to demonstrate to me so I could see the difference between that and how I should be standing but she couldn’t do it as she kept losing her balance when she tried.

They put me back in casts again, basically at my request.  She thinks it’s unlikely they’ll be any further improvement although when I got upset and started crying that got changed to “well you never know”.

The angle of my ankles in the casts is the same as it was standing which apparently is no improvement but I remembered after I left that when I first saw her at the beginning of July my measurements were substantially different lying down to standing – and the casts were done whilst lying. So maybe there is a very slim possibility it’s better.  Confused.

I’m going to borrow a standing frame from the hospital to have at home.  When I go back in a couple of days to have the casts removed my Dad is going to take me so we can bring it back and he can learn how to get me in it.  I’ve also been told that they won’t do any more casts.

I’ve been referred to orthotics regardless in the hope they can do something to help me out.  Night AFOs were mentioned (deep joy), special inserts for my shoes and wedges are also possibilities I believe.

And that’s the latest installment of Emma’s Adventures in Serial Casting…

>Missing – one blog entry

>
If found please return to Emma at A Writer in A Wheelchair.

I wrote an update about the serial casting on Wednesday night but for some reason it didn’t post. I can see it in my online drafts in blogpress but it won’t let me post it. So it’ll have to wait until I go on the PC and can go on blogger proper.

Am I the only one who finds it surprising that Blogger haven’t released an app of their own or at least made the website iPad friendly?

Things have changed and moved on yet again since I wrote it and surprised me yet again. This treatment process with the Botox and the casting has been very different to what I expected. It’s also been harder and occasionally easier too. I was chatting to a friend earlier and described it as one of the situations where you know that in the long run it should be worth it and you want to do it. But in the short term you wonder why you thought it would be a good idea and have fleeting moments of wishing you hadn’t started it.

I’m not saying I regret doing this, I’m very glad I pursued it and think it’s good. The amount involved and all the ifs and buts and maybes are a little overwhelming at times, that’s all. That and I don’t think I properly considered the emotional impact before this began. My mental health issues being what they are however I’m not sure I could have done so had it even occurred to me. I’ve never seemed to have definitive things which make me down or anxious etc, it’s all a bit random. Which for me is probably a good thing.

>In Which I Am Apprehensive About An Upcoming Appointment

>I’m back at the hospital tomorrow. Only I don’t really know what for.  I rang them on Monday about various things and the receptionist referred to my appt as being at X time with the physio.  But I was under the impression that my appt was 15 minutes later than that and in the clinic with a consultant (although I believe this clinic has physios and consultants working together, I was under the impression I was going as they need me to see the consultant).

At the end of the day none of it really matter but… I was already a bit apprehensive about the appointment due to some of the stuff that’s going to be discussed (which could mean big changes for me which are never easy) and now I have what ifs going round and round in my head.  I’m told by they physio the new meds they might want to give me are sedating. Reading on the Scope website suggests one of the possible treatments is painful to administer – and I don’t know for definite but based on stuff that was said I think they might want to do it then and there if they think I’m a candidate.  And something that was discussed when I saw the physio is a treatment I swore I’d never have but am now thinking I’ll try if they suggest it.

And then there’s the fact that the transport people despite having picked me up two weeks ago from here had a question about where I should be picked up from. Here.  Or my parents old house which I moved out of 10, nearly 11 years ago, they moved out of 7 or 8 years ago and at which I never had hospital transport.  And which isn’t my most recent previous address by a long shot.  And how did they get the answer to that question? By ringing my parents and speaking to my Dad.  So much for confidentiality.

So basically I’ve just turned into a big ball of stress and it’s not fun.  Nor is depression which makes these things so much worse.

I do know it’ll all turn out all right in the end but… I wish I could skip to the end like fast forwarding through a DVD!