How has stigma around mental health affected you?

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is how stigma affected my mum. This affected me because of the awareness mainly from my childhood, but still parts as an adult.
My mum has paranoid schizophrenia and having the title schizophrenia is enough, because of the stigma I remember around it. The stigma may not be as bad now as in my childhood, but I believe it’s still there, like any mental illness.
I remember as a teenager that schizophrenia would get bad press in the newspapers. It gave those with this condition a bad name, making it look like they were all dangerous, or violent if you had this condition, when it isn’t true. This condition would always be mentioned in the bold part of the newspaper when someone with this condition killed someone. I remember seeing this making the front page at times. This was newspapers in that time trying to give a sensational story line that sold their papers, not realising just what damage you were causing. I remember feeling really angry how the newspapers did this.
Thankfully now, newspapers have to watch how they word things, but I feel the damage from those days is still there. Do you?

People with schizophrenia are not violent people, but they can be a danger to themselves. But there are some people who will be quiet by withdrawing into themselves, as in my mum’s case.

I don’t like the word schizophrenia. But when I came to not liking this word, I don’t know. I don’t know if I hated this word when understanding my mum’s condition at a young age, or if it was the bad press if the newspapers.

But as I say, I think there is still stigma around mental health and because of this, it’s not something I will bring mum’s mental health particular condition into a face-to-face conversation with someone and mum is wary to do the same.

As you know I suffer with depression and anxiety. Depression has been good but anxiety shown itself since last year, as I blogged about. The past month or two, anxiety has not been too bad.
I have experienced stigma with my own mental health, things like people saying “chin up,” is not exactly helpful. Also, when you start talking about how you feel to some people, you realise from their responses they don’t get it after all as you first thought and that I am expected to snap out of it. Snapping out of it is not easy as you think.

It’s bad enough when people have to deal with their own mental health day in and day out, but when you receive unhelpful comments, cruel remarks, or just plain ignorance, that can create as much damage as the illness itself.

We have come a long way since when I was a child, but there is still more to be done. The royals are doing good with their Heads Together campaign I think.

How has stigma around mental health affected you?

Coming off my antidepressants

As I said in this post; “Chit-chat April,” I would talk separately a little further, about me coming off my antidepressants. I have been on Sertraline 50mg for over 2 years. During that time, there have been occasions with support of my doctor to lower them, so I would eventually come off them.
From November 2016, I started to take one every other day, but in June 2017, I was back to one a day, after my review with my doctor. (I was at the dose of one every other day at that point still.) My doctor was hoping originally at this point for me to come off them, but when I explained about work, (the old place that I have finally left,) and how it was making me feel, which made me concerned because I was also learning to drive and I did not want to have my ‘wobble,’ he let me stay on them, but back at one a day. When I was ready to, I could go back to one every other day and keep lowering when I felt right to.
At the time I was deciding to start one every other day again, I received the devastating news about my cousin and her husband, so I knew this would not be a wise time to start. I then days after the funeral, find out about the disgusting truth of an ex, so as much as reducing was on my mind, I knew this was still not the right time.

After the first week of my new job, I decided now was the time to go one every other day. I stayed at this dosage for the rest of the first month of the new year and I felt great, so I decided to take one every two days, after that. Again, I felt great and so it went to every three days.
Near the end of March, I started to take my tablet every four days which then the withdrawal side effects were showing, after first week of doing this. I knew I was stable, but I did not quite feel right and my balance mainly felt really off. I looked it up and apparently other people have felt off-balance when coming off them.
Later, which at this stage I had been on this dosage now for just over a week with same symptoms but not feeling any worser I decided at this point, I wasn’t going to continue at this dosage. So I stopped and just let my symptoms ride out. My last antidepressant taken  was on 4th April 2018. The side effects that I could not describe went on for another week and sometimes I found it was best to just be by myself at the odd times, as I was a touch sensitive I noticed at times. In total, the worst of it was gone in two weeks, so not as long as I thought it would last. This left only my balance issue, which is now easing off I have noticed this past week. I am feeling good, I am happy and feeling positive, which I know from my readers, that this has shown already in my past posts. 🙂

As I have mentioned before in another post, do not come off any of your medication without first seeking advice from your doctor. My medication was only for short-term use, which I ended up being on it longer, due to my personal mental health issues.

Some of the withdrawal effects include:

  • dizziness or headaches
  • tingling feelings like pins and needles or numbness
  • sleep disturbances (vivid dreams, nightmares, not being able to sleep)
  • feeling anxious or agitated
  • feeling sick or being sick
  • shaking

These symptoms should go after 2-3 weeks for most people, but a few people can get 2-3 months or more.
Most people get mild symptoms, but for a very few people they can be very intense.

I would like to add that coming off medication is not for everyone and not everyone can do this. As much as my mum would like to come off hers, she can’t, because she has been on them all her life. This is why you must always speak to your doctor, who can advise, help and support you. Do not do anything rash, as this can make you ill.

Antidepressants – back to one a day

It was my review with the doctor today for my antidepressants and I am now back to one a day when it comes to taking them, after chatting with him. (Instead of one every other day.)
He is happy for me to be on them for some time if needed, with the strength being a low one and has not said about me coming back in so many months this time, so I imagine it will crop up in a much later appointment, or when I am just due for the check later when it becomes zero on my repeat prescription.

I let him know what I was doing and the situation still at work, along with how I feel about that. So it was after that conversation that he decided I should go back to one day. Unlike my work department, I trust my doctor and so I am happy with what he suggests.

While I was at my doctors, I also asked if my hay fever tablets could be changed to a non-drowsy one, because of me learning to drive and hopefully a car driver one day. I mentioned how the instructor brought this up regarding medication in general and checking that they don’t affect your driving. The doctor was happy to do this, but pointed out that even non-drowsy medication can make you drowsy. If I felt they were not good for me, I could go back and be given something else.

Update on my mental health and wellbeing

This morning, I seen my doctor to review my antidepressant which I currently take every other day. I discussed with him how I felt near the beginning after a couple of weeks at starting to take them at this dosage. I then explained how last month has been especially not good, due to grief of losing my aunt on new years eve and how it was also difficult the last 48 hours before she passed away, because we had a few occasions expecting her to pass away, only to hold on for another day.
I also explained that the whole of last month nearly, was dominated by a very bad cold and that I still have a sore muscle from all the coughing I did still.

So, at the moment, because of the above and how at the moment I feel I am up and down with my emotions, we decided it was best not to lower my antidepressant any further and to keep it at the dosage I am currently on. I am to go back in and see him in four months time and we will discuss how I am doing then, and what we will do next. In the meantime, between now and then, should I ever feel any worse, not to hesitate to make an appointment.

As for my sore rib, sometimes it can take longer, as I am experiencing, so all I can do is go with the flow, taking it easy and rest when needed. Eventually the discomfort will finally go.

I also let him know about me being allergic to the Cetraben cream and so it would need coming of my repeat prescription. I mentioned I did not need any alternative, as I will continue with what I was using before, along with another I am finding even better.

Medication review

Today, I seen my doctor for my medication review. This appointment was to see how I have got on since I last seen him and to possibly reduce my antidepressants. Since last time seeing him, I told him I have been mainly well, with exception of recently when I had a week or two where I was feeling low and quiet with myself. I explained to my doctor that it did not help that my rash spread from my hands up and up to my arms, as I was self-conscious about it, as well as it being very irritating. I also said to him that I had it on my neck too and suspected the rash on my arms and necks was a sweat/heat rash, because it got worse when I was feeling hot. Other than that period of time, I have been feeling fine since.
My doctor was happy that I could start reducing my medication, if I was happy to. Which I am. So from today, I start taking my antidepressant every other day for the next two months and see how I go with that. I then see my doctor again in two months time, to discuss how I have been during that time and the possibility of reducing a little bit more. If this happens, then something like taking my medication every three days, but this will be discussed more, when I see him then.

As for my rash, if it came back, I am to use my Cetraben cream.

While I was there, I also had my flu jab. I told him how I chose to not have it last year and that I think I chose to not have it the year before either and so I thought I lost out from being able to have it. He told me I would not lose out, from not having the flu jab in the past and that I am entitled to it, as well as recommending that I should have it, with having asthma.

Talking therapies

As you know from reading this blog, I have had counselling in the past, the last two sets of sessions being very helpful for me.
This was because after the counsellor who I had for my first of theses two sessions, identifying my childhood past being the cause of how I was now.
Since these sessions have ended, I have been writing this blog as my continuing therapeutic way of dealing with things, as well as other things, like learning something new, remembering to give self-love.

I recommend talking therapy to anyone who is struggling. Talking therapy can work alone, or alongside antidepressants from your doctor, depending on the individual.

I recently learnt that someone closer to me was not doing well as I thought. After this person asked for advice, which I gave, I could see there was a bit more to it then the person was letting on, so I asked further. The person wouldn’t answer this question, as was concerned how I would feel ashamed of them, of their response.
I reassured that person, that I am sure you have done nothing to be ashamed of and that the advice I gave before would not help alone, as I could see whatever this issue was needed to be addressed. This would mean if they felt they could not be open with me, then to speak to a counsellor where you will not need to feel worried about being judged, because they are there to listen.
On answering further questions about what to expect in counselling sessions to reassure this person, because they have never seen a counsellor before, I printed off the necessary information, so they could self-refer. I hope this person does follow it through, because I know this person would benefit from it so much.

If you are feeling the need to talk to someone and have no one, or not confident in speaking to a friend, or family member, then please do speak to a counsellor. They are not there to judge, they are there to help.

I do recommend talking therapy, because you are in a neutral place where you do not need to worry about upsetting, or worrying a friend or relative, so you can unburden yourself. A place where you also won’t feel judged.

For more information on talking therapies, please visit this page at Mental Health Foundation.