My mental health – a decade later

My mental health – a decade later

I am very open about my mental health, I would be the first to admit that I have had major struggles in the past. However, in the 10 years since my depression began, I can honestly say I have seen a massive difference in the stigma attached to mental illness. It’s always easy to talk about the bad, so I thought I would do a post about the good as well.

Where am I at?

This is the first positive in this post, to be honest. For the last 18 months, I have actually been very well. There have been blips here are there, but when aren’t there days that are overwhelmingly bad? My medication has stayed largely the same and my trips to see my consultant have been less and less frequent.

“I’ve tried to think about why things have improved and I think it’s mainly down to having a job that suits my lifestyle and supports my mental health along with settling into motherhood more.”

As Isabelle has gotten older I would say she has gotten easier, the early days of zero sleep (although she isn’t great overnight still), constant crying and her frustration at not being able to do things has dissipated and my only challenge now is normal “threenager” stuff – whining, temper tantrums and “I want I want”.

I think being more aware of my triggers has helped me practice self-care and make sure I am ok. I’ve found my biggest ones are:

  • Sleep disturbances – if I don’t get enough sleep or my pattern is disrupted, this makes a massive difference to my mood. Even one night that is really out of the usual can completely throw me off.
  • Routine – So it turns out I am a creature of habit. If anything pops up which isn’t part of my day to day plan it can make my anxiety skyrocket. I like to know what’s going to happen as well, planning is a big thing that helps my mental health.
  • Stress – If I find that I am having a lot of stress this can also throw me off, the odd bit of adrenaline filled midwifery work is fine, but prolonged and sustained stressful situations really doesn’t suit me. This is why I don’t currently work in a hospital setting and have regular working hours to try and keep things as “mundane” as possible.

What about society?

Society is finally turning its head about mental illness and putting time and work into improving services and the stigma.

“Now I’m not saying this is perfect, there is still a HUGE amount of work needed with the government cutting mental health budgets and overwhelming waiting times for people to see professionals.”

But now it is no longer an embarrassing thing to admit to. Depression and anxiety are talked about and people are much more aware and understanding of what that means. Thirteen reasons why started off a massive conversation around suicide and the current drive is to recognise mental illness in men, who historically are very much left behind by the services set out to protect them.

Other serious mental illnesses probably aren’t as de-stigmatised and psychiatric services don’t have the man power or facilities to cope. Women with severe mental illness post-pregnancy still only have the possibility of a mother and baby unit in the most severe of cases – as it stands I believe there are only 8 beds for women and their little ones in the whole of the West Midlands. Many people who need urgent assessment don’t always get it as crisis teams are at breaking point and psychiatric beds are just not meeting demand. We need so much more money pumped into the system to try and meet this deficit, but I’m not sure that will be happening any time soon.

“What I do know is that mental health nurses and doctors, and the staff that meet the sufferers in a primary care setting/in A&E work tirelessly to help these people.”

They are an asset to the NHS and need to be cared for to prevent them from burning out and leaving the profession. Much the same as it is for nurses and midwives across the board.

What can we do?

Well, the answer is probably that it is limited what we can actually do to make a difference. The small things all add up and can, in the end, make a change. Not shying away from those who are suffering is key, asking if someone is ok and not trying to say things you think will make things better, the age old “well you’ve got nothing to be depressed about” or “pull yourself together” comes to mind. By asking without having an answer you are opening the avenue to someone opening up. Ultimately you don’t need to say anything, and sometimes that’s what someone suffering needs, just a talk to get things off their chest.

We can donate to charities such as Mind, Samaritans and Bipolar UK etc to help them help people in need. I managed to raise £130 this year for Samaritans (you can donate if you want to here) and that has helped them fund 2 volunteers for 12 months and answer over 70 calls to support people in the UK in a time of need.

Finally, if you are really impassioned you can write a letter to your MP to show you want their support going forward with mental health legislation and funding from the government. A template is available from Samaritans meaning you don’t even have to write the letter out – it’s already done for you!

Tell me, do you have any tips you’d like to add? 

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