Pills, or Happy Pills - they have been labelled, have once again saved my life but this time I've finally given in and allowed them to work properly...for the time being.
I recently had a relapse in my mental health - no I'm not ashamed - and for reasons unknown. I'm not stressed nor am I severely worried or down about anything so I do wonder myself what has caused this to happen yet again? It's still under investigation. But in the meantime, I have taken necessary steps (again) to try to resolve this issue. I visited my GP. On this occasion, it has been pretty streamlined. My GP, thank God, is a psychiatrist and specialises in mental health so, despite only having 10 minutes with her, I felt heard, for once. She nodded but I knew she knew what I was talking about and understood how I was feeling. She admitted that when you're yo-yo'ed around the Practice, it can be difficult to get to the root of the cause when you're continually having to repeat yourself to various different doctors. I wish other NHS professionals took this approach but I am appreciative that they all have targets to meet each day.
I've been prescribed - a repeat, mind - fluoxetine, otherwise known as, Prozac. It's an anti-depressant, a green and white pill, very distinctive and is meant to help with depression (low mood) and anxiety and panic attacks. A higher dose of this medication is also said to treat eating disorders but I'm not quite there yet.
I have been taking this medication since February, admittedly intermittently - and yes my doctor did have a moan at me for this - so I'm pleased to be back on it now and to actually try to be patient enough to allow it to work. My doctor does appreciate that I am really impatient, not because I want the medication to hurry up but because my anxiety is so high at the moment it is interfering with my day-to-day life. In order to tackle this, she's prescribed me something else that should help short-term while I wait for my Prozac to kick in after four weeks. Meanwhile, I am taking sleeping pills to help with my sleeping pattern, alongside medication for my persistent migraines. So yes, I am feeling very grateful for not only my new GP who is willing to spend extra time with me by monitoring my health but also the NHS for being so easily accessible. Yes, my prescription was rather large (£30.00) but it will tie me over until the new year.
I used to be against medication but hindsight has made me realise I was only against it because I wasn't patient with it. You can't argue with science, but a few years ago, I thought I knew everything. When you know your body, you don't trust anything alien in it to work. When I began running, I believed running could solve everything. It made me feel good and during this time I wasn't taking medication because I didn't feel I needed it. I had previously been prescribed citalopram about four to five years ago before I started running, and I hated the way it turned me into this miserable, lazy, vegetable who would lay on the sofa and not move for days. I hated not being in control of my feelings. In fact, it took away all of my feelings. I couldn't be emotional (and I am an incredibly emotional person) I couldn't cry, I couldn't be sad or angry. I felt nothing. So my first experience with anti-depressants wasn't a good one.
On this occasion, however, it has been my anxiety that has been causing me so much pain. With low mood, I find that running and exercising can help me manage it. But anxiety is a completely different ball game. The headaches, the eye-twitching, the terrified feeling of having to leave the house, to be around people, to commute to work, to stand next to strangers on the Tube, to write a decent article to publish, to read it over and over again to spot mistakes. Everything, whilst anxiety is present, is almost impossible. It's almost as if my brain has gone into overload and is overworking itself to the point I am so exhausted then it reboots and I can't sleep because my brain has worked its way up again. It's a vicious circle, you get it.
But this time around I am willing to be patient. I want to be patient because I want to be better. Mental illness is still a confusing topic and a confusing health condition that people still don't understand. I still don't understand most of what I'm feeling or how to explain to others what it is, why I'm not returning their calls, why I'm hiding out in my house all the time, why I'm not coming into work today. Sometimes, I wish I had a cold because at least I know a cold will be cured after five days.
My doctor has asked me to be patient, so I will. She's a good doctor and I trust her. Trusting your doctor is definitely one of the things that people struggle with too. Especially if you have a mental illness. When I first had a psychiatrist when I was placed on Therapy4You - and don't get me wrong, it's a great service the NHS provides - I didn't trust my therapist. I had six, hour-long sessions with her and she faced the clock every time clockwatching. It made me feel uneasy, not listened to and just another patient she's ready to finish before she sits in the same room with another. It wasn't as organic as I'd hoped it would be. So this time around, I won't be using that service and instead, I'll be looking for something more tailored.
Either way, I hope these tablets work. It's the beginning of my treatment and realistically, it's the start of addressing something that has been eating me up for too long. It's not as temporary as some make out to be because it does come and go but I need to find a way of managing it in the best way I can so that I don't end up having these relapses that interfere with my working life.
As my doctor said, this is a journey. And she's with me every step of the way. Onwards.
- xo J