Wednesday, 15 November 2017

It's not me, it's you.

Something else I thought was quite interesting about my recent experience of Mental Health care, was the idea that not all experiences with Mental Health challenges / issue' are clinical. The umbrella term of 'Mental Health' seems to cover a vast amount of psychological states. The one I was most aware of was 'Depression', and I was also aware of the trauma of 'Psychotic Episodes' but I didn't realise that what I was diagnosed with was also considered part of the Mental Health Family. Anxiety.

My last post mentioned what physical symptoms I was having and how I was treated on the NHS but probably the most interesting thing I learnt about what I was experiencing, was that it wasn't considered Depression (which I had naturally assumed it was, based on previous diagnosis but which looking back was probably wrong...). Once I had begun the process of CBT and started completing the weekly telephone assessments with a Therapist, it became very clear that my problem was with Anxiety, my scores for Depression were actually quite low in comparison.  It transpired that I had been living through such a prolonged period of stress and unpredictability it had eventually led to excessive Anxiety, which in turn was causing me to struggle to function in a way I needed to indeed and wanted to. This was then expanded on further with my first one to one with the Therapist when she said to me, "You need to consider that your issues are not clinical, but inter personal". WOW. What en eye opener! I didn't even know this was a 'thing'! (Coincidentally, last week on Radio 2 there was an interview with a Dr who has just published a book about Toxic People and how they can affect your life and ultimately your health. Not all psychological states dealt with by Mental Health Teams are clinical. Anyway, I just thought it was really interesting and something I had never considered before but is obviously prevalent. "You know what, it's not me, its you".)

So now the conversation had started, the can of worms was open and it needed to be. When I really looked back at my previous brushes with Mental Health care, it made complete sense. Growing up, my home life had been so traumatic and unpredictable from the age of 8, that at 14, I snapped. Then later on in life, after 9 months of being dismissed and disregarded at work by someone who I had considered a friend, I broke down. And this year, after a prolonged period of instability and stress at home, again, I hit the bottom. So, you can see the pattern. These are not instances driven to despair by unknown forces, these are instances due to my relationships with other people and the way that I react to them. By my parents as a child (where, as a minor, there was no escape), by my Boss at work (where I was trying to establish a career and a better life for myself), in my house (where I was trying to keep my family together and provide the kind of life I didn't have for my son). Reading this, it might seem obvious that a person would be pushed to their limits after these experiences but each time anything has happened where I have been forced to knock on the door of the NHS, I have felt / believed /was told that I had something frightening wrong with me. Some chemicals lacking, a deep dark depression lurking inside my head or some permanent unsolvable 'problem' that was destined to rear its ugly head every few years. HOWEVER, the possibility that my difficulties were 'inter personal' changed everything for me. It made me think about myself totally differently which was the start of my way out of the hole. It was the challenge to these automatic thoughts that I had had my whole life, and the realisation that there are other ways of looking at the same situation (basically CBT) that helped me get to where I wanted to be.  I wasn't a failure that attracted shitty situations, I am actually quite resilient for getting through them. Its true that when you are at the bottom the only way is up and that is exactly how I feel now. I am on the up, looking at the past, present and future of my life thorough completely different eyes. Just being aware of this different, alternative view is all down to CBT. I would never have looked at myself / my life this way before.

You would lead a very charmed existence if you never found yourself in a difficult / upsetting / stressful situation throughout your life. That's just how it is and sometimes it can just be really shit. But what you need to consider is your own limitations when dealing with these experiences. There might be quite a few people reading this, currently feeling anxious about work, or stressed about a situation with a friend or family member but not confronting the problem. Slowly isolating yourself from friends as you feel you never have anything good to say (that was me). Maybe you don't want to rock the boat, or you are so used to treading on egg shells that is now your norm (also me), but believe me, if you don't deal with these things, you can make yourself ill and end up spending a large amount of time with the Mental Health Team. The 'issue' might not be you, it might be someone else or at least the way you react to them, and if you get ill because of the way someone else treats you / your perception of how they treat you, as well as the mountains you have to climb to get better again you might also feel somewhat angry and rather fucking resentful that no one had ever told you it was possible for other people (family, work colleagues etc) to have such a negative effect on you!!! Hence this post.

Mental illness is such a massive subject, and as I said before, I've not studied it but I know how I have felt, and I know what helped me get better and I know what I need to hopefully stay on the straight and narrow. And if life gets shitty again, it might not be due to some darkness within me. It might just be that I am in the wrong place, with the wrong people. I now understand the effect other people have on me, not just the tricky people but also the good people. Isolating myself from my friends when I needed them most wasn't the right thing to do at all. If you feel scared and alone, physically being on your own ain't going to help you! Spend time with people that make you feel GOOD. If work is making you stressed, could you do something else? What is so special about your job that it's more important than your health? How can you simplify your life?  TALK, be honest and open, get angry if you need to, but don't keep it in or think it's your problem, because it might just not be. 

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