Recent thoughts

Over the past couple of days I have read an article thehoopla.com.au (http://thehoopla.com.au/adam-boland-inner-fears/). It’s a great article but it does highlight the misconceptions about mental illness. Along with this, I came across an image depicting what it would be like if we treated physical illnesses the same way we do mental illnesses (http://www.robot-hugs.com/helpful-advice/).

For the most part I have found most people are pretty understanding, however it seems that as I am off work for a longer period of time, the less understanding people are. It seems that while my mental illnesses do not or have a limited impact on others people are ok, but as the impact is extended or becomes more intense, the less people are understanding.

On another picture I came across there is a section where one guy says to another “You just need to change your frame of mind and then you will feel better.” The guy he says this to has had his hand cut off and is bleeding all over the place. It’s not something you would say, but people feel pretty ok saying similar to someone with a mental illness.

The problem is that mental illness is not understood very well, particularly by those who do not suffer from it. While there is more tolerance towards those with mental illness, a lot of that steams from anti-discrimination legalities. For many people there is still a great deal of miss-understanding, fear and to a degree a lack of trust for those who suffer from long term mental illness.

It really wasn’t long ago that people with mental illnesses were completely shunned by society, locked up and basically experimented on. Those who were able to avoid this, often ended up committing suicide or isolating themselves from society. To a degree, those who have mental illness are still experimented upon. Whilst there are numerous medications to treat depression, anxiety etc, little is known why or how they work. Over the past few months I have been somewhat apart of the “experimentation” part of treating mental illness. Trying different medications and different combinations of medication to see if they help. And it’s not just take a medication for a few days and see how you feel, most take a few weeks to feel any benefits from them and normally up to 8 weeks before they have reached their full potential.

So not only do people, in Australia at least, generally have to wait 4-8 weeks to get an appointment with a psychiatrist, they then have to wait around 4 weeks to see if the medications prescribed are showing signs that it will treat that particular case. As I have said in previous blogs that I was once on 3 different medications which managed all my psychological and physiological issues and I am now on about 9. 6 different medications for mental illnesses and 3 for physical illnesses, with the potential that there will be another medication added in a bit over a month depending on how I go between now and then. Oh and its 11 6 psychological and 5 physical. They have added iron, Vitamin D3 and calcium supplements. These have been added due to some tests I have had recently. When they did the bone density test they found I had Osteopenia, which is the stage before Osteoporosis. So to prevent Osteoporosis for as long as possible I have to take Vitamin D3 and calcium supplements. From the endoscopy and colonoscopy they determined that I had iron deficient enemia hence the iron supplements.

When I had the endoscopy and colonoscopy they also found that I have gastritis and Grade B Esophagitis, the nexium is supposed to assist in preventing symptoms for the Esophagitis. When they found both of these issues evident, along with the iron deficiency they decided to biopsy my small intestine. The specialist has not said why so far, but from what my doctor understands this would be to see if there is an issue with my small intestines absorbing different vitamines etc.

Recently, I have been thinking how people without mental illnesses, in particular depression, could experience or get a better understanding of what it is like to live with depression. My idea is to get a group of people into a movie theater and play a movie about depression, from the eyes of a sufferer, or a scary as shit movie. While the movie played, quietly, just loud enough for people to hear, another track was played. This track continuously repeated lines like, Kill yourself, you’re no good, you’re not worth anything, you could run your car into a tree on the way home, etc. The movie would play for a couple of hours or so, and the whole time this track would play the whole time, and at different points the volume of the track would be played as loud as possible, and randomly all the lights, including the emergency lights went off for different periods of time.

While this is not exactly what living with it is like, but imagine going through an experience like that. The theater is completely full, not an empty seat, on all sides of you are strangers, but you are not allowed to talk to any of them, you’re not with your friends and lastly you can’t get up and go to the toilet, take snacks or drinks in, or mobile phones etc. You are completely alone, with no escape from the movie, people and the constant drone of a voice telling you to kill yourself. I can almost guarantee very few people would leave that experience and not need psychological care. I cant imagine anyone leaving saying they would want to go through it again.

Right here, if you are reading this and imagining what it would be like and this encourages actual suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm please contact lifeline or similar, at the very least a friend, partner or family member. /The number for 24 hour crisis and emergency assistance is 131465 or to contact lifeline you can call 131114. Of course if it becomes an emergency please call 000 for an ambulance. These numbers are for Australia Only.

If you put all the factors above together and then take into account that for a sufferer this is continuous for the whole time that they are awake, every day, at work, at home, constantly (except for the movie), you can probably start to realise why those with depression struggle with life so much. No matter what is happening, sad or happy, physically unwell or not, there is a voice in your head constantly repeating that you are worthless, you should kill yourself and suggesting ways to do it. Sometimes its quiet, just audibly or being screamed at you. Consider what it would be like to live like that, I am pretty confident that you can understand what it is like. The reason I chose the environment, the inability to leave it, or have any distractions etc is so you realise that, that is what it is like for a sufferer. We are not in control of when we hear/think this, often we are unable to do anything to distract ourselves (ie. at work, trying to go to sleep). The idea behind the movie theater is that it and the way the test would occur with not being able to leave etc, is me trying to replicate the loss of control, the feeling of complete isolation even in a group of people. The lights going out into total darkness causes an added level of fear, bear in mind you are sitting next to people you dont know, in complete darkness and all you can here is you are worthless, why dont you kill yourself, etc.

I get that this is pretty fucked up and there is no way that any official body, group of psychiatrists/psychologists etc would ever endorse or run such an experiment. While I think the outcomes would actually be fascinating, and I think those who make laws, work with or are in a position to employing staff etc should have to experience something like this before they are allowed to work with, make laws regarding etc, I know it will not ever happen. Liability alone would be astronomical and to be honest I would feel horrible for anyone who volunteered to undertake such an experiment, and would probably be the one to try and talk them out of it. But it is a fair or at least a close experience of life with Depression.

While the lights out part, no phone or bathroom etc component does add a level of anxiety, it is within the scope of Depression. Anxiety, panic attacks etc are on a completely different level. Im not sure how you could replicate that kind of thing for people without it. The closest I can think of would be to change the track to say running water will do something, make your lips fall off, let that play constantly for 48 hours say. During this time you see or hear no running water. Then all the sudden you are forced to wash your hands under running water. Im not sure if this would give a similar result as to Anxiety issues, but I recon a fair proportion of people would freak out when it came to washing their hands.

The other way is kind of like a dog with a shock collar. When the dog does the wrong thing, bark for instance, the shock collar goes off. Eventually the dog stops barking because that causes a shock. Now instead of the shock collar being on the dog it’s on you, and 20 minutes the collar starts to shock you until you wash your hands. If you wash your hands, the clock resets and you are no longer shocked until 20 minutes are up again. Now eventually, what would happen is that you would start to wash your hands ever 19 minutes so you dont get to the point you start to get shocked again. Problem is the time between shocks comes down to 19 minutes, so you start having to wash them a bit earlier again. This cycle continues, slowly but surely. Now add the normal life stuff, you have a meeting, that goes for 2 hours, after 15 minutes, your going to start to get concerned that your going to be shocked in front of everyone in the room, you will try to hide it but the shock causes you to spasm and your hands flail in the air. Imagine the anxiety you are starting to feel, but as 19 minutes comes and goes you dont get a shock, 20 minutes, 21, 22, 23. Maybe the collar has stopped working, maybe nothings going to happen. Your eyes are fixated on the length of time since the last shock, forget the meeting your mind is stuck wondering why and when your going to receive the next shock, maybe it’s charging up and the shock is going to be much worse than the last one. There is a little buzz that starts coming from the collar now. Your sure your about fucked. By this point your well and truly freaking out.

That’s probably as close as I can replicate it to something people who dont experience Anxiety issues would be able to understand. Now combine this with the depression example, and this is what many people with mental illnesses face, just on a scaled down example. It doesnt cover all aspects of the illnesses but, hopefully this provides a clearer more understandable illustration to what life is like inside the mind of a person with mental illnesses. Just remember I am suggesting short periods of time, a couple hours etc. For many sufferers it isnt something that comes for a visit, has a cuppa and off it goes. It’s more like someone who moves in for a few weeks, or months, or even years. Bags packed for the long haul, ready to party hard and run a muck.

While we, as a society, have become more tolerant of those who suffer from mental illness, mental illness still carries significant stigma. Someone who suffers from mental illness is treated and viewed, very differently to someone who suffers from diabetes or some other chronic illness. I can understand, to a degree, as to why this is. Not being an illness that is generally visibly detectable, makes it hard for others to recognise that you are unwell.

I personally think though that a majority of the reason mental illness is viewed the way it is, is because people judge or evaluate the illness based on their own experiences. For instance, everyone has felt sad. There are times where you feel sad, but you have to hold it together, for what ever reason, and carry on with life. Or you are having a bad day, you’re feeling moody, irritable etc. But you are at work, dealing with customers, so you have to put those feelings aside and help your customer or whatever and you can do that. So why can’t someone with mental illness. This is where people start thinking that the sufferer is pathetic, after attention, etc. God forbid that the person goes home because now they are lazy and unreliable as well. Mind you if that person was suffering from cancer or something like that, it would be perfectly acceptable.

It’s for these reasons too that suicide, due to mental illness, is perceived the way it is. Most people view it as a choice and generally there is a view that the person who committed suicide was weak, selfish etc. I know that this is a common view because when I have struggled with suicidal thoughts I have thought the same about myself. It’s for these reasons that mental illness is considered by many, not to be a potentially terminal illness. Which, I firmly believe it is.

After years of, what is fundamentally torture, a sufferers mind becomes so twisted, so messed up that the person no longer knows which way is up. Their self worth, their own self perception becomes distorted, so much so that what was once recognisable as non-sense, a symptom of depression etc is not distinguishable from any other thought or feeling experienced. The person lives with the constant thoughts of killing themselves, hurting themselves, being of no value, family and friends would be better of without them etc for so long that these thoughts are no longer irrational thoughts that are discarded but rational thoughts, the thoughts now feel that they have reason, have been considered and make more sense than continuing to live.

While I agree that there is likely a small proportion of people who attempt or succeed in committing suicide have done so for attention etc. My view is that it is an extremely minimal number of people. From the information available, almost every suicide victim suffered from one or more mental illnesses, with approximately only 10% of those having psychotic illnesses. Suicide, is also within the top 15 causes of death in Australia, with between 2000 and 2300 people dying as a result of suicide every year. World wide it is a top 10 cause of death, with approximately 1 million deaths per year recorded. Not only is there approximately 1 million deaths per year it is estimated that up to 20 million people attempt suicide each year.

Even if it was accepted that X% of people who committed or attempted suicide did so for attention seeking reasoning, you would have to agree consider that there would be some form of mental illness as the root cause. Killing yourself to get some attention is a pretty extreme action to take.

While suicide, for any reason, is extremely sad and has a devastating effect on friends, family and the community at large, what a person suffers leading up to this, is far worse as far as I am concerned. A life filled with torment, lacking hope, topped off with a side of anguish is not something I would wish upon anyone. But to make things worse, many sufferers live with this silently. Not wanting to burden others with their issues, ashamed that they feel this way, scared of what will happen if they tell anyone. From my own personal experience with mental illness these are feelings I battle with on a regular basis. For many years I felt that I was living a lie. Putting on a mask of ‘normality’, trying not to give any sign to those around me that I was anything but happy. A way of being that is extremely easy to fall back into. You try and hide how you are feeling, what you are going through because others around you are sick, dealing with something or are happy and healthy. When people are not well, you dont want to add to their problems, you dont want to be a burden to them. When they are happy etc you dont want to bring them down.

While I write these blogs and am writing a book regarding mental illness you might think that I do not struggle with the feeling of shame, or I am not scared what others will think etc. When in fact it is something I struggle with constantly. How open am I willing to be, will I post this or that. There have been many times where I have written a post and it has taken hours, even days before I can press the PUBLISH button. Terrified what people will think, that if people I work with will be scared of me, or avoid me because of what I have written about. Ashamed that I am not “better” than the feelings I have. Ashamed because I am speaking out or asking for help. After I publish a post I am often gripped by anxiety for hours and days afterwards. Watching to see how many people read it, what comments I get, etc. Not because I am after the attention, because I am scared of the attention to my personal struggles.

The main reason I persist in writing the blogs and my book, being as open as I am, being as vulnerable as I can be, is certainly not to bring attention to myself. It is to bring attention to what life is like for someone who suffers with mental illness, to help those who dont suffer mental illness to be able to relate to what its like. Not for sympathy, but for understanding, not that sufferers get some sort of special treatment, but so that mental illness is recognised as a chronic illness, that is potentially fatal. An illness that is not segregated from physical illness as if it’s some weird mystical illness.

You know that’s actually what it’s like. I remember when I was growing up there was more and more alternative health places opening. Where treatments were some mystical thing from asia and often viewed as a load of horse shit and the practitioners were just trying to rip people off. Now days some of those treatments are far more main stream, acupuncture for one. It’s not really treated as alternative medicine, it is much more accepted as a viable medical practice. I even remember when chiropractic practitioners were not much more than charlatans. This is very much how mental health is still treated, and part of the reason is in the label. Mental health is separated from “real” or physical health. When you are sick you dont say, I have a physical health issue, you say you’re sick, or I have the flu. Mental health is this whole separate medical field, not really falling under what a GP treats, like they would any other form of illness. Mental health is shunned from non-mental health, it is boxed in the corner. You can only be treated by specialists (psychiatrists/psychologists), your GP provides, little if any assistance and relies upon what your specialist says.

Anyhow, that’s enough for now. I will leave this on a positive note, while it is about 3 weeks away my psychiatrist has decided that I am fit to return to work starting the 6th of Jan 2014. I will only be doing 4 hours, twice a week to start with, but it is a huge step in the direction towards recovery. I am excited about going back to work, but at the same time scared out of my wits.

What I found kind of funny after he agreed that I could go back was I felt more optimistic about everything, it was like I could see that there was life beyond all the shit I have gone through recently and I was getting to come back and join the real world. I think for the first time in a very, very long time I felt a glimmer of hope, hope that I would get better, that all my fighting, all my perseverance and struggling against depression was finally paying off.

Sorry this post is much longer than most the others, but I hope that you found it an enjoyable and at least an interesting read. Post comments, I am really interested to hear what people think about what I write and if it is helping anyone. If you want to write a comment but it not be seen by anyone else but me, in the first line just write – NOT TO BE APPROVED – and I wont approve it to be published.

Cheers for reading.

Returning to work

It’s nearly 16 weeks since I was last at work. It’s probably the longest period of time that I have not worked since I left school. At times it doesnt feel like it has been that long, at other times it feels like I havent been to work for years.

Last week I started seeing a new psychologist. My old one was great and I would have gone back to seeing her but she is about an hours drive from where I live now so location wise not great. Anyhow, I’ve had one appointment so far and generally the first appointment with psychologists/psychiatrists have been the same for me. They go through privacy stuff, how much they charge, all that jazz. Then they ask what you have been diagnosed with so far. For me that’s a bit of a list, for those who don’t know here is the list thus far;

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • General Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Dislexia as on psychiatrist put it)
  • Trichotillomania
  • Agoraphobia
  • Depersonalization/derealization disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Thankfully, while it is a bit of a list, most of these are successfully being treated by medication and past exposure response prevention therapy (ERP) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Obviously, Major Depressive Disorder is a bit of an issue at the moment.

Anyhow, so once they have gone through this, they ask about past therapy and what medication you are taking. After all this, generally you fill out an assessment form of one sort or another, while you do this they read your referral. By the time this is done most of your session is over. In my first session with the new psychologist she asked what has occurred over past couple of months with hospitalization etc. Then it is generally, what are you wanting to get out of the sessions.

The first time I was asked this I had no idea what I wanted, however this time it was pretty simple. I want to be able to go back to work. I want to know how I cope with it, what I do if I start having a panic attack. It is going to be a major thing for me to go back to work, it’s not like I had surgery, or broke both my arms and I am better now. I’m better than what I was but I am far from being mentally healthy again, well not healthy but able to manage my conditions.

I have a lot of concerns/reservations about going back to work. Don’t get me wrong, I want to go back to work. I want to get back to ‘normal life’. Financially, I need to get back to work. While I am on income protection payments, it’s only 80% of my wage. That doesn’t seem like much of a drop percentage wise, but adding doctors appointments, specialist, hospital fees and added medication costs, it adds up. My parents are having to assist me quite a bit. I know live in one of their rental properties however I am not paying rent to them as I can’t afford it. When I go back to work I will be able too, but at the moment I can’t. While my parents are covering some of my expenses for me, I will have to pay them back. So, added to everything going on once I am back to work, I have to start paying off what I owe them and it will be a significant amount. Just the cost of being in Fullerton was $2150, add cost of moving, rent not paid etc its gonna be up there. Financially, there is a lot of pressure to get back to work.

Despite the financial stuff, I can’t and wont rush back to work before I am actually ready. I don’t want to go back to work to early and end up not coping and back in hospital. But at the same time, I have to be careful that I don’t stay off work due to unfounded fear. Ending back in hospital scares the shit out of me. It was the worst period of time in my life that I can remember. Not that the hospital or it’s staff wasnt good, it’s how I felt while I was there. I don’t ever want to feel like that ever again.

I am worried about a lot of things about going back to work. It’s currently 4am and half the reason I am still up is I am worried about going back to work. Despite all the medications I take I have had a lot of anxiety about it for the past few hours. The other reason I am still up is I have a psychologist appointment at 10am and I’m scared that if I go to bed now, I wont wake up to my alarm and sleep through my appointment. It’s part of the reason I am writing at the moment, it’s a coping mechanism of sorts  suppose. One of the things psychologists/psychiatrists suggest to help cope is distraction. Do something that gets your mind off what is making you anxious. Writing for me is kinda like doing that for me. When I write it’s kind of like I am sort of separated mentally from what is making me anxious, almost like I am looking through a window into my own mind, if that makes sense.

Going back to work presents a lot of challenges for me given what has transpired over the past 16 weeks. Just going back and being surrounded by so many people, so many different voices all talking at once. Being able to focus and process what I am hearing is still difficult. Particularly if I have to contribute to the conversation, like if I am asked a question or something. My sister has a tendency to speak quite fast and ask multiple questions one after the other. When she does this my mind just stops. Pretty much nothing happens. It’s like its been over loaded and it stops so it doesnt burn out. I have to ask her to slow down and ask one questions one at a time.

It’s not just interacting with people, it’s the questions of “where have you been?” “Did you have a nice holiday?” etc. And, while I know most people I work with are understanding etc, the feeling of being judged, like the feeling people are saying “You were sad so you have 4 months off work?” While most people are pretty understanding, there are those who aren’t.

Then there is actually doing my job. Mentally I still have problems concentrating, focusing etc. Can I figure out how to do what I do? Can I be productive enough? I know I will be going back on reduced hours to start with and depending on what work agrees to I may work from home as well, but how long will it take for me to recover to the point that I can work fulltime again. How will all this affect my career?

Along with all those things, I am really anxious about what happens if I have a panic attack at work. I have had this worry for a few years, but I have been able to manage them reasonably well. If I feel one coming on, I can generally get to the toilets and hide out in there until it passes. When I was in Fullarton I had to go to Flinders for an MRI, unrelated to the depression, when I was in Flinders I completely freaked out and ended up almost catatonic. What if this happens again, at work. When I was at Flinders, my Mum was with me and she was able to help deal with it. She had been given some PRN in case something happened, so she was able to give me it, which helped calm me down once it kicked in. But if I am trying to work and drive I am worried about having PRNs while I am at work. One of the types I have doesnt make me drowsy but I dont know if I would be able to work after I take it.

What if it becomes too overwhelming and I have to leave work early, or I have to go into the sick room for a while. Will work be ok with that. Given the nature of why I am off work, its hard to say how things will go with my return to work. Like, if you have the flu, you feel better, the symptoms go away, you go back to work. But, with mental illness, the symptoms don’t really go away. Its more or less a chronic illness in that isn’t cured, it is managed. And while I am managing things better than I was, I am at home most the time. It’s far easier to manage things when your isolated from most external pressures. Along with that, I am not so anxious about what I will do if I was to have a panic attack or something, because I am by myself so there is no one around to see it. Going back to work, there are a number of external factors which make managing things much harder.

While that concerns me, there is another side of it which concerns me as well. Normally, if you have an injury or something that means you are off work for sometime, your employer will want to make sure you are fully recovered before you return to work. One of the reasons for this is because they need to make sure that they do not add to your issues and thereby become liable for futher issues that arise. In a similar thought pattern I worry about how willing work will be to have me return, not knowing how I will react exactly. Is there anything that they need to be aware of? What do they do if I have a panic attack, or I end up like I did at Flinders?

I know that when I do go back to work I wont be back to my old self, I will still have things that I will need to work on and learn to manage. But I want them to be as minimised as possible. As I said I dont want to end up back in hospital or something like that. But I also dont to cause others at work to become scared or concerned either. A lot of people dont know much about mental illness, how it affects people, etc. So if something happened at work, like a panic attack, and other staff saw it I dont want them overreacting, I dont want them calling an ambulance or something silly like that.

Plus as I said I am not totally back on the ball. I started writing this at about 3am, it’s now a bit after 6am. It has taken far longer than it normally would for me to write this much. I lose concentration, I forget what I have already written and what I was writing about. So what happens when it comes to work, how will I manage to do my job, can I be confident that I am doing things correctly, how do I make sure I remember to do things etc.

I suppose the reason this is playing on my mind so much at the moment is I know it is coming close to the time when I will start to return to work. I know that on Wednesday when I see my psychiatrist next, he and I will be discussing returning to work. Likely this will be the last appointment with him this year. I’m not sure that I am ready yet to go back to work yet and I wonder if it’s worth going back to work until after the holidays. I dont know, will see what the psychiatrist says.

Thats it for now. Cheers for reading.

Medication, medication and more medicaton

So it seems I am in a blogging mood again. I think it’s a good thing that I am, it’s a goal that I have, getting back to being able to write again.

I saw my psychiatrist again today, he has signed me off for a further fortnight. I go back to see him in about 10 days and hopefully we will be talking about me going back to work. Not to sure though, next week I am having a procedure to determine if there is any issues with my digestive tract. I am fairly nervous about it. With all the medical stuff that I have been going through since I was in hospital, I think it has been contributing poorly to my recovery. I mean I’m not just dealing with recovering from mental health issues, I am having to deal with a bunch of medical shit and some of the stuff they are looking into is fairly serious. Sometimes it really messes with my head. I really don’t need all this shit on top of the mental health stuff, though I don’t really need the mental health shit either. Just would rather be able to manage my life, get on with it and get back to normal.

Before I went into hospital I was on a couple of medications to help manage my mental health stuff. Since then they have added heaps more to the regime and increased the dose of all bar one of the medications.

Before I went in I was on

  • 20mg Nexium
  • 1oomg of Seroquel
  • 60mg of Paroxetine

Now I take

  • 20mg Nexium
  • 3oomg of Seroqual XR
  • 60mg of Paroxetine
  • 4mg Edronax
  • 300mg Lyrica
  • 1000mg Metformin
  • up to 210mg of Norgesic

and PRN medications

  • 30mg Oxazepam
  • 25mg Seroquel

It’s pretty insane. After seeing my psychiatrist today he has increased the Edronax to 6mg. What does my head in even more is the reasons I take some of them. Let me explain what they are for and why I take them.

Nexium is used to manage reflux. I’ve been on them for a number of years. Part of the reason I take them is because some of my medications make my reflux worse than it should be.

Seroquel/Seroquel XR is a atypical antipsychotics used primarily to help manage my anxiety issues. Part of the reason I am on this is because the Paroxetine does not help enough. It also is used to calm my mind and help me to sleep. The difference between Seroqual and Seroqual XR is XR is a slow release variation of Seroqual. Seroqual is also used to treat Major Depressive Disorder.

Paroxetine is a Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors anti-depressant, it is common for people who have anxiety issues and Major Depressive Disorder to be put on this anti-depressant because it has been found to help more than other anti-depressants.

Endronax is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor which my psychiatrist has prescribed to help me to get some motivation and to help me my mind to get going during the day. Here’s the fun thing with me being on this, I’m on this because the Seroquel dulls my mind so much that I am not hugely functional, it’s part of what Seroquel does. So to counter act this side of Seroquel, when I should be awake, I take Endronax.

Lyrica is used to treat nerve pain. Helps to manage the pain.

Norgesic is a muscle relaxant combined with Paracetamol. This is used to relax the muscles around my spine spasm and tighten, but wont relax.

Metformin is for Diabetes. It protects insulin and helps it work properly.

PRN medication is medication you use on an as needed basis, so like Nurofen, if you get a headache you take a couple of Nurofen to stop the pain.

Oxazepam is used when my anxiety levels are too high and I am unable to bring it under control with non-medication based relaxation techniques. It is fast acting and helps to calm me down quite rapidly. I only use it a few times a week at the moment. As a benzodiazepine it is important that I am cautious about how often I use it as it can be quite addictive.

Seroquel is used in a similar manner as Oxazepam. It helps to calm me down and bring anxiety levels back under control.

Generally speaking I use Oxazepam primarily if I am out or I don’t want to get drowsy, whereas if I am trying to sleep but can’t or I am home and I need to switch off, I take Seroquel.

It’s a lot of medication, what bugs me is the ones I take because of the other ones I take. One of the things I used to be terrified of was that if I took the medications, I wouldn’t be me anymore or I would lose my intelligence. My mind, my intelligence is probably the most treasured possession I have. It is, for me the only thing I really have to offer to others.

Due to my back issues, physically I am unable to do a fair bit of stuff. I can’t lift anything that is heavy, I struggle to walk long distances, if it’s bad I pretty much can’t do anything. Physically, I am over weight and not what you would call good looking. I don’t think I am ugly, I would call myself pretty plain looking. Even when I was not over weight (all those years ago), I was still pretty plain looking, there is nothing overly special about my looks. What I am is intelligent, I’m not saying that I am a genius, someone who will invent something or do something that will change the whole world. But I’m smart, I am able to process information and use it quickly. I don’t look at things the same way as other people.

So, I am pretty careful that my medications don’t mess this up. It is something that I am pretty scared will happen. But, now days I am far less concerned about it, I’ve come to realize that without the medications my mind is messed up. If I don’t take the medication I can be smart as the smartest person ever, but I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it. Most of the time when they have added or increased my medications I am still pretty concerned and pay a lot of attention to how I react to them. While I was in hospital though, if the doctor prescribed something, I took it. I wanted to get back to normal, I wanted out of the hospital, I wanted to feel better and the medications were about the only source of hope that I had.

I am really looking forward to finally starting to see a psychologist next week. I am really hoping that she will be able to help me learn some strategies to cope with the anxiety and the depression without medication. One of the bigger concerns I have about returning to work is how I cope. Even thinking about returning to work I start to get anxious and I start to shake. If I do get to worked up I want to be able to do something other than take medication to calm me down. I can’t rely on them, especially the Oxazepam as a benzodiazepine I don’t want to get addicted to it, but it is the only one I could take if I got to anxious at work.

Going back to work is something I am both looking forward to and dreading at the same time. I want to get back on with life, get back to things I enjoy. But it presents a lot of challenges for me. I still have trouble going into supermarkets, doctors rooms, pretty much anywhere where there are people, I have to think or make decisions. Even watching TV causes issues. Often if there is an argument or any strong emotions I start to struggle. I become really anxious, like someone is going to attack me. Going out in public where there is a lot of people I start to feel really nervous and exposed, like I am being watched and judged.

Well that’s it for today. Time for me to work out what I am going to have for tea and maybe try and do some cleaning.

Cheers for reading. If anyone who reads my blog has questions or comments I encourage you to ask or comment. If you want to ask a question privately message me via Facebook and I will do my best to answer it.

Hell of a few months

Ok, this post is pretty long, but the last few months have been insane, there has been a lot on and most of it has to do with my mental health issues. I haven’t gone into a huge amount of detail, it’s more of a in depth overview. When I write about this in my book I will provide more detail and will include some of the events etc that I haven’t included. I have been pretty open and honest about some of the events that did occur, in particular some of my thought processes, so use your judgement as to if you should read this or not.

Lets go back a few months, early August. I had just had a series of cortisone injections into my spine. I have had this once before, about 9 years ago. When I had it back then, it was incredibly painful. But despite that I was incredibly excited to have it again, because last time while it hurt like hell while I was having it, it took away the pain. When I had it this time I was pleasantly surprised, it was hardly noticeable that the doctor was actually doing it. I spent most of the procedure chatting to the anesthesiologist, even though the guy tried to get the needle into me about 6 times before he got it. It actually didn’t bother me that it took him this many times, I was too excited.

It did help, not as much as it did the last time, my back still hurt but not nearly as much as it usually would. Even still I was really happy. Some might say I was over the moon. It is hard to explain to someone what it is like to be in pain constantly and over night it’s gone. Unfortunately, I only remained really happy for about 10 days. I then started to fall into a spiral of depression, though at the time I thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. Couple of days it would pass and life would go on like normal.

Well that didn’t happen. It didn’t pass, it got worse. One morning, late August, I woke up like I normally would for work, but instead of getting out of bed and getting ready, nothing. It’s hard to explain other than nothing. My mind couldn’t work out how to do anything. Everything in my mind was a complete and absolute mess, I couldn’t string a thought together. Nothing made any sense. I know I contacted my manager at work and let him know I wouldn’t be in, but I have no idea if it was a text message or if I called him or what I even wrote or said. I have no idea what I did that day, I know the following day I made it to the doctors and he gave me a sick certificate for a week and told me to rest. That I know I did, I slept all bar a few hours a day. Everything took so much effort to do that I felt constantly tired, plus the bed was soft, it was safe.

As time lingered on and days passed, instead of getting better I just got worse. I continued to sleep a lot, but my mind seemed to be constantly thinking about suicide, while I did end up making plans on how I could do it, that wasn’t what I was thinking most the time, I just wanted everything to be over. I didn’t want to feel like shit constantly, I didn’t want to feel worthless or useless. I didn’t want to….feel because nothing I felt, felt good. Life didn’t feel worthwhile, it didn’t feel that there was any purpose or that there was anything good to come of it. Before I continue, this is not how I normally feel. Depression is an evil illness, it twists how you perceive things, how you interpret the world and your place in it.

After about a week or so at home I started to self harm, I was literally kicking myself. Thumping the heel of one thought into the shin on the other leg, the calf, or the top of the foot. I would pull my fingers as far back as I could, not enough for them to break but bloody close to it. I went back to see the doctor at the end of the first week. He referred me to see my old psychiatrist, who thankfully I was able to get into quite quickly, and gave me a sick certificate for a further 2 weeks off.

It was fortunate that I was able to get into see the psychiatrist as quickly as I did, because the self harm was getting worse to the point that I started to punch myself in the head and then I started to smash my head into walls. The thoughts in my head were becoming darker and darker and more and more fragmented. I was going days without eating or bathing. I couldn’t see the point in it, nor did I have the energy to bother. I didn’t care about my own well being anymore. Things got exceptionally bad and I had started to make plans as to how to kill myself.

What’s weird about all of it, especially making plans about killing myself is how scared you become that you might do it. Deep down you don’t want to, deep down you want to have hope that things will get better. Being scared of what you might do to yourself is one of the strangest feelings you can ever have. Most people are in complete control of what they are doing, normally, so it would stand to reason that I would be able to stop myself from killing myself. But I felt like I had lost control, control of my thoughts, control of my reasoning. I was scared that my thoughts, my reasoning would eventually result in them becoming so twisted that suicide was the best course of action to take.

When I went to see my psychiatrist we discussed what was going on, how I was feeling and what I was doing to myself. It was a reasonably short discussion, pretty much straight away he suggested that I be admitted to hospital, which I agreed too. He made a couple of calls to Private Psychiatric Hospitals but was unable to find a bed for me straight away, but organized for one to be held for me as soon as it was free with one of the hospitals. As I wasn’t able to get into a private hospital straight away he wrote a referral to the Royal Adelaide, where my Dad took me as soon as the session was over.

After a very long wait, I was seen by the attending emergency psychiatrist. We spoke for about an hour and he agreed that hospitalization was the best course but being admitted into the Royal Adelaide psychiatric ward, known as C3, was not a good idea. C3 is where most mental health sufferers that are admitted to hospital against their will and is not the most pleasant environment. So he made arrangements for me to go to Eastern Intermediate Care Center (ICC). ICC is not a hospital, it is more like a halfway house, it’s where people who are moving from hospitalization to more independent living arrangements. In my case it was where I would go while I waited to get into hospital, a bit of the reverse way of doing things but with options available it was the best one.

I was there for 3 days before a bed became available at Fullerton Private Hospital. I spent 2 and a half weeks in Fullerton. For the most part Mental Health Nurses look after you while you are there. The nurses hand out your medication, check in on you every hour and are there for you if you want to talk. In my case they also took regular obs, my blood pressure was inconsistent, bouncing from high to normal and back to high again and my heart rate was extremely fast, even after resting for long periods it didn’t get below 100bpm. It’s expected that, given my weight, my heart rate would be fast but not this fast.

While there I also saw my psychiatrist pretty regularly. He made changes and additions to my medications and checking to see if they worked or were working. There was one that he added that had to be stopped not long after starting it because it caused me to retain fluid, my legs swelled and it was incredibly painful to walk on. After a few days on diuretics they started to lessen the swelling. It took a good week or so for the swelling to completely go away.

I also saw a doctor regularly who came in 3 times a week. He organized some blood tests, checked blood pressure and kept an eye on my heart rate. There was some concerns regarding the blood test results, which the doctor passed on to my GP for further investigation. A physician was brought in to see me, I think it was about my heart rate, but I’m not 100% sure.

Since getting out of hospital my GP has followed up on the results from the blood tests. Even though I have never had an abnormal blood sugar level before I now have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. It is thought because of some of the medications I am on that they caused the onset of the diabetes to be accelerated. Along with this the results of my liver function tests are abnormal. While I do have fatty liver, my GP wasn’t sure that, that explained all the results so I had an ultrasound of my organs to make sure there was nothing suss. Thankfully there wasn’t and for now he will just be monitoring them.

Lastly, the results showed I was severely anemic. So far there is no known reason for this, the tests they have performed so far haven’t revealed anything so I have another one coming up to see if there is or has been any internal bleeding. There is a concern that there might be a rip somewhere or an abscess or something.

While I was in hospital my parents and I discussed me moving into a rental property, near them, that they owned. The current tenant’s lease was nearly up, as was mine. When I was released from hospital I wasn’t going to be going home for some time, I would be living with my family. By the time I was ready to go back home, the rental property would be available and I would be able to move in there if I wanted. I agreed, so while I was staying with my family, my Dad stayed at my place and bit by bit he packed everything up. A moving truck was organized and I was moved into my new place. My family basically took care of everything, while I was better than I was, I was still a very long way from being well. Since I was admitted to hospital my family basically took over all the day to day tasks that needed to be done to make sure when I got better all my bills were paid etc.

On top of all this I was still working with my pain specialist. There is serious concern that the thing that triggered this depressive episode was the cortisone, so we will no longer be treating the pain this way. There was another option but due to my weight, my specialist wont do the procedure. So there is not much else he can do, he has put me on some different medication to manage my pain but that’s all he can do.

About a week after he saw me the last time he rang, for one reason or another he was looking at my MRI and wanted to refer me to a neurosurgeon. I had no objections, maybe he had some ideas on how to fix things. Turns out, the MRI showed that my spinal cord is being stretched due to Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, commonly known as Scheuermann’s Disease. The neurosurgeon isn’t willing to operate at this stage, the stretching of the spinal cord is causing some concern, it is causing weakness and nerve issues on my left side. Thankfully, it isn’t severe at the moment and may never be. Given what the surgery is I am pretty happy to put it off as long as possible. The surgery is the removal of one of my vertebrae and then to push the rest back together. This would straighten my spine and take the pressure of my spinal cord.

The neurosurgeon then asked if he could present my case as a case study to a board of spinal specialist. He explained that my case was quite unique in the way it is presenting. From what I have found out after researching it, is of the people who have Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, between .4 -5% of the population, less than 1% have spinal cord involvement. Again, of course I said yes, a bunch of spinal specialists looking at my spine, you never know what one of them could see that the others hadn’t and might have a treatment which might help.

So its been about 14 weeks since I was last at work. I’m not sure when I will be returning, though I do hope I will return before Christmas. I’m still not back to my normal self, I still have issues with concentration and well thinking in general. I tend to get confused easily and have trouble thinking, especially when there is lots of people around. I really don’t like going out at all at the moment, more so than normal. I feel so exposed when around people, like they can see right through me, right into my soul.

While I am a long way from being my normal self again and I am still having to use PRN medication (medication used on an as needed basis) to help when my anxiety and/or depression worsens, looking back over the past 14 weeks or so I am a lot better than I was. I am more able to manage my life and more independent, though I do still need my families help at times. I am having to write down pretty much anything I want to remember, especially appointments or bill due dates. If I don’t there is little hope I will remember it.

So, the last few months have been pretty full on and it’s not all over with yet. I am still seeing my Psychiatrist every fortnight and I see my GP about as often, well I’m not seeing my normal one just at the moment as he is off work until after Christmas. Next week I start with a new psychologist and the procedures to see if they can identify the reason for the anemia.

Seeing all these doctors, specialists and the stay in hospital is extremely costly. I recently found out that there is a safety net for seeing doctors etc, which once you reach means that medicare will pay more towards the cost of seeing the doctors. Recently, it appears I have now gone over this safety net amount. Which I am happy about, kinda, means I pay less, but also means I have paid a shit load to doctors etc in past few months. One of the last appointments I had was $3o0, normally I’d get $100ish back, but I’m going to get a bit of $200 back. Though I have to wait for Medicare to send out the check. Thankfully, my employer recently organized income protection for it’s staff. While it’s not my entire wage, it’s good to have some money coming in to help me make ends meet. However, it hasn’t fully covered all the costs but my family have been extremely supportive and have helped me cover some of the costs, until I can repay them.

It’s been a hell of a journey so far and hopefully it is nearing an end and I can get back on with my life. I know this isn’t something that I get better from, it’s not like a broken bone healing, but the symptoms will get back under control. I will admit that whilst I am very open about my struggles with depression an anxiety, I have tossed and turned about putting this blog up. But I decided that firstly, for all the people who have asked where I am lately and what has happened, you know now, secondly it may just help someone who is struggling with depression etc and that getting help works. If you’re like me you know what they are going to say, what good is seeing someone going to do? Here’s the truth, you don’t know what they are going to say and there is heaps that they can do.

 

It’s been a while

Its been a while since I have done any writing either on here or on any of my books. I really havent felt like writing, things have actually been pretty good.

For Christmas I was given a gift card for BCF for fishing gear, which is awesome. I have spent a lot of time fishing since then. I find it very calming, a great way to relax. Ive only caught a few under sized bream but its not so much about the catch as it is about the relaxation.

I have been dealing with life a lot better of late. I havent had the overwhelming compulsions, the level of intrusive thoughts that I used to. I am managing my anxiety far better than I used too, though there are times where I struggle with it all but for the most part I am far better off than I have been for many years.

The costs of medications, doctors and all the other costs do add up. Some times it makes things tough and like most people I worry about money, but I have been dealing with that anxiety so much better than I used too.

Dont get me wrong its not all peaches and cream, I still have my moments. There are days where my mood swings are insane, one moment quite content with things, next completely and over overwhelmingly frustrated. There are days where it is pretty difficult to deal with the fluctuations in my mood, they are less regular than they used to be. However, it’s different now I have less tolerance, for a lack of a better word, for the struggle the mood swings present. It’s like because its not so in my face, not as intense when I have a bad day its like getting hit by a semi-trailer.

Good News

I had my Psychiatrist appointment this afternoon and the EEG came back all clear no seizure activity recorded. So that’s good news. I’m still feeling a bit off after my missed dose on the weekend. Really surprises how long the shitty feeling is lasting. I spoke to my Psychiatrist about missing my medications on Saturday and explained what it was like and he said that it wasn’t a surprise to him how bad I felt etc given how large a dose I take of them. The sudden lack of the medications and then sudden surge of such a high dose apparently does a hell of a job on ya head.

I have to say it is definitely not an experience I ever want to repeat however for 2 days my brain stopped, I wasn’t anxious, I didn’t have suicidal thoughts, nothing.  But I obviously can’t live that way and the side effects of headaches and everything that went with it was not pleasant. Just trying to look on the positives not having the thoughts, the anxieties was extremely nice.

Wow

So as said yesterday seemed that I forgot to take my medications on Saturday night. Yesterday was not a pleasant day, but I figured once I had taken them last night and slept I would feel better. When I missed a dose of Pristiq I felt off, but once I took it again the following day and had a sleep I would wake feeling more like myself. This did not happen today.

I went to bed last night and hell did I sleep. I remember waking up once but it was brief. I slept through some of my alarms this morning but I woke up about 20 to 8. I say woke up but I wasn’t awake, I just wasn’t sleeping. I could barely get my eyes open enough to send a message to work to let them know I wasn’t gonna be able to come in. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, walk a straight line or think clearly at all. I got the text off to work and was back asleep within a few minutes. Slept for another 4 hours or so and woke up. Still barely functional, felt really wobbly on my feet and like I wasn’t really awake, like I was dreaming everything but not.

At that point I was really glad I had called in sick. There was no way I was going to be able to get my arse to work even after a few more let alone when I should have been there. I could barely make it to the lounge let alone drive. Still hours later I have a thumping headache, I’m still feeling a bit wonky, if I move my head too fast I feel like dizzy, kinda like the floor has become unstable. I have taken Panadeine Extra for my headache but it’s hardly made a dent.

It amazes me that just how much of an impact missing one dose can have and I am not gonna repeat the processes any time soon. I will definitely be having a chat to my Psychiatrist tomorrow about it all. I am really hopeful that I feel back to normal tomorrow. It really pisses me off, on the medication I feel slightly better but if I forget them my world completely stops. It seems to me that it’s a great way to ensure that your customer base stays “loyal”. If the side effects of your medication are bad, the side effects of not being on them are worse. To come off anti-depressants you have to slowly tapper off, so even if it is determined you no longer need them you take them for a few more months while you come off them. Seems to me that these highly addictive drugs, that if you don’t take have serious adverse effects and therefore you make sure you can afford them regardless of their costs because life without them, well that just doesn’t work. Seems that they have some similarities to some other drugs which the government deems illegal and they use some of the above as reasons why they should be illegal. Now I am not saying make illegal drugs legal, but would be nice if some more research went into making medications that weren’t so shitty.