Q1. Tell me a little about your mental illness and if you have sort help?
I have depression and anxiety. I was first diagnosed in 2004 but I think I was ill for a long time before – I just thought that what I was feeling was “normal”.
After a traumatic delivery of my daughter in 2014 I suffered PTSD, but didn’t know that that is what I had until a midwife appointment for my second pregnancy told me it was in my clinical notes – I just thought that every mother had a hideous birthing story to share.
My recent bout of depression started in the autumn of 2015 when I had a total breakdown. I was 8 weeks pregnant and thankfully I had amazing support from Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS – specifically my Health Visitor, Clinical Psychologist and GP.
Q2. Have you taken antidepressants? If so what affect did they have on you? What advice would you give to someone starting a course of antidepressants?
My first round of anti-depressants was in 2004. I’ve been off and on these as required over the last 14 years. Previously I was prescribed Fluoxetine, which did the job. But for me there was a weird side effect which was very distressing – excessive yawning! I managed to hide my mental health issues from my work colleagues, but couldn’t hide the yawning (sometimes 3 or 4 times every minute) in meetings, at my desk, while they were talking to me…. it became a problem (embarrassment and pain in my jaw muscles) and ultimately resulted in me wanting to come off the meds sooner than ideal.
During my second pregnancy I chose not to take any medication. I coped OK, but it was tough. When my son was born, I was advised to take Sertraline as it was “better” for breastfeeding mums. I didn’t seem to have any side effects, and was able to feed my baby (for over 2 years!!)
My advice would be to let your GP know your individual side effects – these are unique to your body chemistry and there is no point in sticking with one type if its not working or its giving you other problems. There may be something else that works better. But anti-depressants are not a cure – consider them a crutch to let you heal so that you can get better with time/therapy.
Q3. What coping strategies do you use on a bad day?
Sometimes I don’t cope. And my coping strategy for those days is not to beat myself up for having a bad day!
I have two pre-school children so I don’t often get time to mope, take a bath, go for a walk…. But my kids try to help by offering me their favourite cuddly toys when I am crying, or calm me by stroking my hair. And when I don’t “cheer up, mummy”, I actually get sent to the “naughty spot” to consider my behaviour! It’s a wake up call at least.
Q4. What effect do you think social media has had on your mental health? What affect do you think it has on other people’s mental health?
Like everything, moderation is required. Don’t excessively compare your life with the Instagram filtered, personal trainer, designer label celebs. Don’t go looking for negative views to make you feel worse.
For me, finding a voice through @FeelGoodGlasgow has been useful. I can hide behind my alter-ego and post my honest view of mental health. I can talk to people when I want, I can also ignore people or comments when I want. But I have surrounded myself in a social network that exists, literally, in the palm of my hand, where I don’t have the support in real life.
Q5. What changes would you like to see in raising awareness for mental health going forward? What would you do? How do you think we can reduce the stigma surrounding it?
I did some research recently…. 8% of the population have blue eyes, 10% are left handed and 13% of Scots have red hair. Mental health issues effects 1 in 4 people each year. 25%!
Why is there still a stigma?
I’m lucky that I can share my voice through my social media channels. Nothing I post goes viral, but a comment might reach that one person who reads it at the right time that makes a difference.
On my better days, I sometimes share with people (IRL) the my mental health issues. On those days, I can handle their reaction – but the odd thing is; there rarely is a reaction. They don’t fuss over me, and they don’t point and stare. It’s liberating.
Q6. Have you ever experienced stigma yourself? How did you deal with this?
My employer has a policy that promotes positive mental health. They have Mental Health First Aiders and have been signed up to the Time To Change Employer Pledge since October 2014. However, my direct line manager was insensitive and ignorant towards my health and never directed me towards this support. Due to his own failings, I have been absent from work since late 2015. I have lost out on salary, possible bonus and career advancement. I have had to attend meetings with countless people to discuss my well being and I have been asked to provide medical reports and letters from my GP. It’s not stigma per se, but it’s these subtle ways that corporations undermine mental health as being as real and relevant as physical health.
Currently, I am too weak to fight my employer. I need to reconcile that I may have lost my job, but certainly my career.
Q7. What advice would you give to someone who is struggling in silence with their mental health?
Please don’t struggle in silence. It might be a struggle – but we can fight this together.
Some days we winners, but every day we are fighters.
Your voice can be heard, your opinions do matter, you are worthy.
Find someone you trust for that first conversation – a friend, your mother, colleague, GP or call a helpline – anyone that cares will not judge you for being ill. Silence is what makes this disease deadly.Social Media Sites :Twitter – Feels Good Glasgow
Thank you so much for taking part.