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Mental Health: Medication, counselling and me.

I have wanted to write this post for a while as it is something I often get asked. I am very open about my struggle with mental health, as you may be aware (read about it here and here) and while I openly discuss what has helped me with my mental illness, I have never talked about it in detail. I believe this post will help people, as it gives an understanding of how two very different forms of support can help an individual. However, before I go any further I must say that I am by NO MEANS an expert on medication. These are my own experiences and opinions. I understand that medicine and counselling may not help everyone and if you want professional advice, please PLEASE see a doctor. 

Now, this post will be done chronologically, which means that first I will talk about my experience with medication for my mental illness, as meds are what I was given at first.
My anxiety started to get unmanageable back at the end of last year (you can read more about that here), and after a particularly bad few episodes of panic attacks and hyperventilating my mother basically dragged me into my doctors mid panic attack and demand I be seen right away (this was without an appointment on a very busy day and they saw me within 2 minutes with no problem at all), I was given advice then and there and told to go back home, eat, sleep and go back later that day for an appointment to discuss further help. That day my doctor (who was absolutely wonderful) and I decided that I would try a medication called Propranolol. Propranolol is a beta blocker, which is prescribed for many things, from migraines, to patients after a heart attack, and also anxiety. For anxiety the way it helps is by slowing down the heart rate, one of the most common symptoms of anxiety is an increased heart rate, and very often, at least for me, feeling an increased heart rate makes me panic even more. These tablets started to work very well, I was on 10mg tablets three times a day. The beta blockers didn’t make it go away fully but certainly lessened it and made me feel a little better. However, soon anxiety came back and with a vengeance. My anxiety disorder was known to be Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) but I knew deep down that something was causing it…my fear of illness. After some research, it became very very clear to me that I suffer from health anxiety as well as GAD, a very serious and debilitating form of anxiety that sometimes gives sufferers symptom similar to those of OCD (again, I won’t go into detail here but I have a whole post dedicated to it here). I was also experiencing some depressive thoughts at this time because of the health anxiety. I went to my doctor, again in a huge panic and basically begged for more help. This time I saw a different doctor who again was wonderful. He was very calm and asked me lots of questions trying to come to the best decision for me. He concluded that it was indeed health anxiety and so gave me another medication, Citalopram. Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and commonly given for depression, as well as being used to treat anxiety. Due to the nature of this medicine, I was told that my symptoms could get worse before they got better but I would see a difference after a few weeks. This was true, and although the first week was hell, I soon felt like my usual self but better! Medication has honestly changed my life. There was a time that I couldn’t even get on a train to university but with the help of meds I can finally do that and feel confident doing it. 

 

However, the thing with medication is that although in my case it was a god send, it didn’t actually resolve the problem. Underneath it all I still wasn’t quite right. I’d still sometimes get depressive thoughts, anxiety and low confidence, medication just meant that panic attacks were less common and I’d be able to function more easily. This told me that perhaps I needed something other than meds, something to get to the bottom of why I feel this way. So, I thought of talking therapies. My first port of call was my doctors surgery. Here I was told that I could be referred but that the waiting list was VERY long, and to be quite honest, at the time I was pretty desperate for some more help. I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting for months on end, and was feeling pretty hopeless when a friend recommended the health services in my university. I looked online and found that I could book an on the day emergency appointment which I was SO grateful for. I went into uni, saw a wonderful lady who assessed me and decided that I’d be referred for immediate counselling. Just a short while later I met with my counsellor (a different lady from the assessor) who I saw once a week for 8 weeks. I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for this woman. She made me feel like my old self, before anxiety even existed for me. She was so understanding, never ever judged me and gave me so much valuable advice, not just about my mental illness, but also about my self confidence, university work and my future career. She gave me the confidence to be the person I want to be and I can honestly say she changed my life. Before university ended for the holidays, she gave me lots of information and support as well as contact details for organisations who could help me over the summer, should I need it. She really made me feel like she cared, and I cannot thank her enough. 
Since my counselling finished I have stayed on my meds, sometimes I take one less tablet a day and feel absolutely fine. Other times I need my full dosage and have a ‘not so good’ day. These are completely normal though, and no matter how crap I feel on times, my counsellor taught me so many coping strategies that I KNOW I can get through it. 
So, this was my experience with medication and counselling for my mental illness. I hope this has helped, even if I have just helped one person. 
Don’t hesitate to ask me anything if you have questions. 
Love Rach xoxo

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19 thoughts on “Mental Health: Medication, counselling and me.

  1. Thank you for sharing this and speaking out so openly about mental health, Rach! And I’m so proud of you! It seems like we had the same length of counselling, as mine were monthly and I had about eight sessions altogether – it really did help me so so so much. Sending you so much love ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comment ❤️ I’m so proud of you too, you’ve overcome so much and have really showed everyone how much of an absolute queen you are! So glad counselling worked!!! Xxxx

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  2. I am sorry, but as someone who has been in IP 4 times for OCD and the psychosis that comes along with it I find you comparing health anxiety to be offensive. I understand what you are trying to say, but OCD to that extent is s psychotic episode. I also have Panic Disorder, somewhat similar to GAD so I respect your views on that. Just thought I should let you know incase another low functioner is vitriolic about it. X

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    1. Thank you for your opinion, however I feel obliged to inform you that health anxiety IS in the OCD spectrum, and whilst I appreciate that it is not to the extent of your mental illness it is still very difficult and, like it or not, is still a recognised form of OCD due to the obsessive tendencies that Health Anxiety brings.

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      1. Can you please explain the obsessive tendencies that come with having health anxiety?? Surely being on the OCD spectrum means that even posting this explanation online would be too much to handle with the obsessiveness that the disorder makes you have? I think this is why the above post was concerned about.

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      2. I should not have to explain myself and my illness to anyone. People experience illness in different ways, sure this may be difficult some some sufferers to post, however, for me, I managed.

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      3. Also, you do realise every diagnosis of OCD isn’t the same for everyone? Nothing is set in stone. I have been told by many health professionals such as my GP that Health Anxiety is on the OCD spectrum, he even carried out an OCD assessment to assess me for Health Anxiety. I’m sorry that the fact that I can write about my Health Anxiety somewhat offends you, but as I’ve already stated that I have been told by many Mental Health professionals that Health Anxiety is on the OCD spectrum, and that if you are offended by what I write about on my blog and my mental health state, I suggest you don’t read my blog.

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      4. You should never have to explain anything. It’s very brave and courageous in my opinion that you share your struggles with your mental health. Nobody is in the position to judge other people’s struggle with mental health. What do people actually think to achieve by doing that? A mental health condition is different for anyone, people have different experiences and phases and duration. Having a go at people’s experiences has absolutely no value and making people feel bad is just disgraceful.

        I think you are very brave and I’m so fortunate to know you Rachel. Never forget what a special person you are. I’m so proud.

        I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this and I want to say to everyone who reads this. Sufferer or not, we should not question or diminish the mental illnesses. We should support each other! ❤️

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      5. Thank you so much for the continued support. It means the world and I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said. Thank you. Sufferers and non sufferers should all support each other!

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    2. A person has spent a lot of time and been very brave about sharing her experience of mental illness and you shoot her down with a comment because the ‘terms’ are not correct.

      Having a mental illness isn’t a badge you can show off and different people experience the symptoms in different ways.

      I get that you were being nice in your eyes but you were actually doing more harm than good by pulling apart this post.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you so much for sharing Rachel and I’m incredibly proud of you. Your blog is a place where people can learn about different things and I have learnt quite some things about MH issues or illnesses that I haven’t got the experience with. Although I have GAD and depression, I learnt so much. I have just started my meds for two weeks and I’m really feeling terrible, but reading this post made me more confident in some ways, I don’t know if that made sense? Thank you for that! Keep on doing the great job you are doing and you help so many people with this. It’s different for everyone and I’m the first person to defend you and your work when people try to get you down, you are my buddy.

    Again I’m so proud of you!

    Marc | Bugger All Blog

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved reading this and it’s so amazing that you’ve shared your experiences! You don’t know how important this post is as at the start of the year I was going through a lot with anxiety, depression and stress and if I had seen something like this- I think I would have recovered a lot easier and faster. I’m so much happier now and seeing posts like this make me so happy that we are all slowly getting back on our feet! -Tash xx

    thoughtfultash.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment 💖
      I’m so over the moon with what you have said- if I can help even one person with this then my goal is achieved. I’m so pleased that you are on the road to recovery. Wishing you love and positivity!
      💖 xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been on Citalopram since September for anxiety but only recently started private therapy sessions. I completely understand why a lot of people take the medication but, like yourself, I think it’s also so so so important to do counselling or therapy so you can actually talk about the root of the problem. Sadly my uni mental health services weren’t brilliant but now I’m taking a year out to try and get myself sorted. Blogs like yours are definitely helping me on that path so again, thank you so much for talking so openly about your experience, I’m not brave enough yet but I hope that I can be soon ❤ x

    harteva.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

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