LIFE AFTER REHAB...WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE HELP ENDS
I came out of The Priory 5 years ago. But you don’t just get spat out like a fully functioning human being again, cured of your mental illness, no. You come out with a list of meds as long as your arm and a bit of sporadic therapy here and there but thats it, you are pretty much on your own. Meds wise, there are the Antidepressants, the dose so high you can’t remember who you actually are or what you are meant to be doing. The same pills that take 6 weeks to actually get on in the first place. There are the sleeping pills to help you sleep, you get so used to popping those pills as they work a treat, just like turning out the light, bang! you are dead to the world and all the anxiety stops, bliss. Then there are the highly addictive ‘Pams’ as I like to call them. Diazepam and the like. I got lucky with Lorazepam which I discovered is like gold dust in the world of anxiety and depression. A teeny tiny little pill that once you take it stops all your nerve endings from firing off, a bit like that first glass of wine. Utter terror is replaced by warm fuzziness within 15 minutes and a feeling that you can conquer the world - see I told you they were good.
So there you are, back home, rattling with pills and expected to just carry on back where you left off… a mum of two kids under 3, a house to manage, work treadmill to start thinking about getting back on and a husband away a lot with huge work responsibility. Sure you get the once a fortnight therapy session where they just check you aren’t going to do anything silly and that soon runs out. But that is it, home and left to just sort of get on with it. A bit like when you birth your first baby actually, only the baby is you.
Looking back this should have been my ‘What now?’ moment. Because mental illness doesn’t just stop. Once it’s switched on it’s a bugger to turn off. But I was unable to think like that back then i was just sort of functioning in a bad way. The thing that scared me the most though was how was i going to manage it moving forward on my own?
At first the meds made being a mum of 2 young kids almost impossible. I’d be narcoleptic and fall asleep at lunchtime which was great for when my baby was asleep, not so good for the older kid’s nursery pick up.
Then we moved house and suddenly I was at a different GP’s who raised a few eyebrows at my little blue pills but luckily they still gave them to me. Around this time I decided I should try and come off the antidepressants as I knew they just weren’t working for me. Apart from the constant daytime sleeping I was always eating and the weight was creeping up and I still was suffering with massive anxiety attacks almost every month and I wondered if it was because I felt so out of control.
By chance, I found a local yoga place that was a bit alternative, one class we just danced and shook our bodies in the dark for an hour and my god it was better than any blue pill I can tell you. I started going every week and started to ‘feel’ things again. With this new purpose, I gradually started breaking my antidepressants into smaller and smaller bits (I don’t suggest you do this without seeking advice from your GP BTW) Soon I found I no longer needed them along with the sleeping pills and things seemed to be going ok, well sort of because I just couldn’t say bye bye to blue pill ‘Pam’ just yet.
So I’d got my depression under control for sure but my anxiety was still off the scale. For around 4 days a month I wouldn’t sleep, I would be seized by terror and fear, the kind where you imagine the worst at 3am like you are all going to die. Writing that sounds ridiculous but to my anxious brain it was FACT. That’s when I found out about IAPT services (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) I felt like I was going mad and I started to have serious heart problems from all the adrenaline that was pumping through me. My heart would sort of flutter and go weird when I was resting as well which sort of perpetuated the whole anxious thing. I called my local service and someone called me back and they were really lovely. I think I did a massive snot bubble cry on the phone to them as they asked me all the questions that would work out what sort of help I would need. I think I was scared they would send me back to The Priory but they were totally brilliant and reassuring and I got lucky and was given a course of CBT one on one with an amazing therapist. She helped me in so many ways. I really do recommend finding a good CBT course because some of those techniques are the only thing you remember a 3am when you are in a blind panic.
By talking through a lot of my issues I realised there was a pattern to my anxiety that I’d not noticed before. I became convinced it was linked to my hormones and I went back to the GP as I felt like I was lacking something every month which was causing this anxiety spike just before my period. The GP was dismissive of me, saying I was too young for HRT. But I ended up by chance seeing an amazing older French doctor at the clinic where I had my smear test ( god it’s all glam for women isn’t it?) The doctor listened to my story with great interest and was nodding her head throughout. She smiled when I stopped talking and said it was most definitely linked to my hormones as after 2 kids and being 40 I was seriously lacking in some feel good hormones every month. I swear I could have kissed her! I wasn’t going mad after all.
She suggested the coil with a little bit of hormone and said she could cure me of that monthly anxiety. I was intrigued but most of all I was desperate, so I got one fitted ( I won’t go into that bit as I don’t want to put you off but lets say I took quite a few blue pills that day) sure it took around 6 months for the effects to be noticed and I bled on and off daily that whole time BUT and this is a big BUT I no longer had that crippling anxiety every single month! it was amazing!
I’m now a year on and feeling a lot better than I have before. I think it’s a combination of The coil and exercise ( I got a dog which has been brilliant for getting me out exercising without feeling like i am) But also the CBT and working out when to say no when things get to much and asking for help but also when to be brave and say fuck it because it’s those fuck it moments that actually give you all the feels right? And good adrenaline is way better than that other bugger. I also realised the other day that I’d run out of my little blue pills, Pam had gone but I’d hardly noticed. I was too busy living my life.
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Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.