Sometimes, the smallest of steps bring the biggest of triumphs & that is certainly how it felt last April 2018. Picking up the phone was easy, admitting I felt mentally unstable & a danger to myself was hard.
I’d been to my local doctor the previous day, i walked in the treatment room forcing a fake smile pushing my 6 month old baby, she asked the routine question, “So, what can i help you with today?” I tried to keep my composure as i stuttered “I think I need help, mentally, I think i maybe sick” and from just saying those words out loud, i burst into uncontrollable sobbing. My poor unsuspecting doctor looked taken back and quickly rummaged for a box of tissues.
The relief from just saying what was on my mind felt like a mental fog and shame had slightly shifted, but i held back a lot of how i really felt, i still felt ashamed to admit all the battles in my head, to admit, maybe, i was an unfit mother & possibly the best place for me was in a padded cell in a straight jacket. I realise now, that was my anxiety thinking, not me, i realise now, a lot of times, my anxiety speaks for me.
After a few evaluation questions to check i wasn’t a danger to myself or society, i was prescribed some tablets to help take the edge of what i was feeling and given a sheet with a contact number on to speak to some local psychiatrists in the form of- Inclusion Matters.
As soon as i got home, i rang the number, this felt like another hurdle i needed to jump, but i was determind to get the help i needed. The call was answered quickly and i was assessed over the phone to see how urgently i would need to be seen answering ‘scale on 1-10′ questions to see where my emotions and thoughts swayed towards. Since i was still under the ’12 month since i last had a baby’ percentage, i was moved to top priority. I was told in the week the psychiatrist i would be meeting would call to arrange my first appointment and to assess the kind of therapy i would be needing to help control my intrusive thoughts and phobia.
When Jennifer called, my soon to be mental heath therapist, again, i felt that wave of relief washing over me. She sounded friendly, welcoming & understanding, but more importantly, she didn’t judge me. After about 30 minutes on the phone, we decided the best form of therapy would be CBT on a one to one basis and we would need to meet each week until i was well enough to be signed off! That sounded like music to my ears!
I then made the difficult decision to not take any medication, i knew if i wanted to get better i’d need to feel all my emotions, all my feelings, in the rawest of forms! no matter how hard it was, because i was so determined to not let my mind be my master, i was going to be the master of my mind.
The first meeting was hard. I felt so vulnerable, confessing the darkest of secrets my mind conjured up, that’s the thing with intrusive thoughts, it makes you feel ashamed, mentally backing you into a corner that unless you talk about and shine a light on that shame, it will consume you into the darkest abyss. I cried like a baby, was I an awful Mother? Was Jennifer about to call security and tell me i was better off in that padded cell i’d envisioned? No! Instead she looked at me with compassion in her eyes and sympathised, told me her stories, her thoughts, what i was going through was okay- she made me feel ‘normal’
After an hour talking, we arranged another meeting, this time we were going to focus on my phobia which had triggered my intrusive thoughts- you see anxiety is like a tree trunk and stems from it is all the branches that contain all the other triggers of anxiety, but if you knock down that trunk, the biggest part, the main cause, all the branches fall with it, controlling the main root of anxiety will help you manage all the other areas, maybe even defeat them.
I had some homework set also, it’s all well & good talking for an hour, but putting some steps into action in the real world is where the change happens! Like driving a car, the instructor can only teach so much! But the real place you learn is out in the real world, driving by yourself.
So each week i’d track my thinking, thoughts & triggers. Its funny how you can constantly be anxious and not even realise it until you are told to take notice! Sometimes its just running in the background & you become so use to the noise you forget what its like for your mind to be silent.
Some sessions where harder than others, it felt like climbing a mountain to get to the top to find another mountain. But i knew persistence was key & my little family needed me.
Before each session i was given a chart to fill in, this was to track how i was progressing mentally. I saw an improvement each week! Slowly, the things that where on the ‘high end’ of the scale like OCD & Intrusive thoughts started to normalise, until eventually they were barely noticable.
My last session before i was signed off was an exposure therapy exercise, i surprised myself at how un-phased i was. I never envisioned that after 12 weeks, I’d mentally and emotionally be in the place i was now.
Jennifer assured me i could come back if i ever felt like i was back tracking and to keep up with my exposure therapies at home, which i have & which at some points had been unavoidable.
I never thought i’d get so unwell i’d need to seek help, but i am so glad i did seek the help & followed through with the help provided. I was so ashamed to admit i wasn’t coping. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family, but i realised that as well as anxiety being a controlling factor of my life, it is also a liar.
Inclusion Matters was a life saver to me, not just literally but metaphorically too! It gave me my life and sanity back, it showed me i wasn’t alone that it IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY and reaching out is one of the bravest things you can do. Suffering in silence will only make your thoughts & feelings louder, learning to control them and be the master of your own mind is to me, as essential, as drinking water. You can THRIVE once you realise the potential inside yourself.
So this ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ i dedicate my time & thanks to Inclusion Matters, Wirral. I urge anyone feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed to contact these wonderful people, it maybe the best step in the right direction you ever take.