Tag Archives: Negative Mental Health

My Experience of Anti-Depressants: One Year On (Part One)

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Next month (June) will mark one year since I started on my anti-depressants and because one of the focuses of my blog is mental health, I wanted to discuss briefly on how I got to that point and in my post that will follow this, I’ll talk about how I have been feeling during this period while on them. I just want to put it out there; this is in no way a sympathy post, I personally think it’s important to talk about different ways we cope with certain situations in our lives and this is one of the ways I have been able to cope, and if we can encourage others to talk to professionals about how they are feeling, then the world will be a better place. 

(Just as a disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, I’m in no position to give out medical advice; this post is simply talking about my experience going to the GP and making the decision that was best for me at this period in my life.) 

I’m not sure about you but anti-depressants in my opinion, have never had the greatest reputation and I don’t really know why. I’ve heard them described as “numbing” and “short-term gain” which is two things they can do perfectly but for me, they have been so much more than that. I was recently listening to Dr. Phil’s podcast “Phil In The Blanks” and he was talking to one of my favourite people Dax Shepard. They were discussing going to the doctors and Dr. Phil said that quite a lot of general practitioners are very quick to subscribe pills and let the patient go. I’ve heard this a few times from different people, both in real life and on line, saying that when they were going to the doctors, they would listen to them for two minutes and put them on anti-depressants. Knowing that this was the experience for a few people I had heard, I was already preparing myself not to be listened to and being given pills.  

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Looking back, I couldn’t have been happier with my experience. I went and spoke to my regular doctor. I went over what had been doing as briefly as I could within a doctor’s allotted time slot and what was interesting with this visit was that they asked could one of the student doctors ask me questions to get a background on me before going into the appointment, and I was fine with that. It was a nice experience because it was an additional ten minutes, I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise so she had asked me why I was there today and why I thought I had been feeling this way. She asked me about past experiences so I was very open with what had been happening with me over the last few years; I also talked about going to CBT and I said that it had been amazing but there was still something just not right. I had been able to change most of my thinking patterns but my body wasn’t responding to those patterns sometimes. Once that was finished, I spoke to my regular doctor after the student doctor had told him what we had discussed and I already felt at ease about the experience. I was no longer worried that they were going to throw pills at me and be on my way. One of the main points he had asked me about my tiredness and I was completely straight with him, I told him that I can’t remember the last time I WASN’T tired and that’s completely true. Give me five hours, eight hours or twelve hours of sleep, I will still be tired. He was concerned about that considering I was still in my mid-twenties so when he asked me about my diet, I told him I was vegan and that’s when he suggested going on iron tablets and in my head, I rolled my eyes. It’s that classic vegan line, “Oh maybe you’re not getting enough iron” but I went with it because as much as I rolled my eyes, I probably wasn’t getting enough iron to be absolutely fair to him. He was very clear though; we’ll try the iron tablets for a few weeks and see if everything else lifts; and if it doesn’t, then we’ll look at something else. 

I left that day knowing that iron tablets weren’t going to be the cure all. Simply because I have been tired since I was around fourteen; and at fourteen I was eating meat, getting enough sleep and being a typical teenager so using the reasoning of my vegan diet, I just knew it was something more. However, I’m a woman of my word so I took my iron tablets, went back a few weeks later to get a few blood tests, and booked another appointment to see a doctor for another few weeks down the line while I was there. 

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This time around, I didn’t have my regular doctor which was fine, because you have to wait a few weeks for an appointment so at this point, I just wanted to speak to someone! My notes from the previous session had been on the system (albeit very brief) and I talked about being there last time and how I had felt so I had been put on iron tablets but I didn’t feel any better, I actually felt worse. She had checked my results and my iron had shot up dramatically which I was shocked at because many people think that if your iron levels are normal, you aren’t as tired (I’m living proof that this is not the case). We determined that this was something else and I spoke about how I had been feeling, and ironically during this visit, I had been told I was being made redundant just a few days before so understandably, I was still very emotional and I’m sure that’s one of the main reasons I was feeling worse (though not the only reason). I know all about self-care and looking after yourself so I stressed that I socialised, I looked after my body with the food it needed and the exercise it craved. There’s this huge perception online that you can cure “sadness” (or whatever you choose to call it) with good food and exercise, and while that may be true for some, it’s not always the case for everyone else. I sat in tears because I was tired; I had spent the first part of the year feeling completely miserable (and the first three months crying almost every day at little things). I should have gone to the doctor earlier, I know that now but I thought the sadness was go away at some point. We talked about the options and I had mentioned that I was currently going through CBT and while it was working great with some areas of my life, my head wasn’t able to catch up. She asked me how I felt about anti-depressants, and I raised my concerns. I told her that I was worried about being on them forever because I didn’t want to dependant on a tablet forever and change my hormones; it’s actually a huge reason I have never been on birth control, because I wanted to be in control of my body. I was desperate, I sat there in tears and told her that I thought I was depressed and I had thought it for a while but I never wanted to admit it. I had only ever mentioned the emotion “depressed” very few times in that time period because I didn’t think I had the right to be depressed. I had been in pain for a while but because I thought it was “just go away”, I waited and waited and it only got worse. She confirmed that this was more than being “sad” and that it was much deeper; she said the anti-depressants would be my best option for now and down the road we would review it.  

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After hearing the horror stories of others saying that GP’s just want to hand out pills and be done with it; based on my experience this was not what happened with me. I felt listened to, I felt like both my GP’s had compassion and it wasn’t being dismissed. While I didn’t feel like the iron tablets would do anything at the first appointment, I know now they just wanted to check that was okay first before moving onto to something else. No GP has ever sat me down and told me I have depression so for that reason, I don’t feel like I can say I have depression but I describe them as depressive episodes. Do GP’s explicitly say “I’m diagnosing you with depression” I don’t know so that’s why I don’t like saying I have depression because it’s never been confirmed to me, but I know it’s more than a sad phase. 

As I mentioned at the beginning, there will be Part Two to this post (because I didn’t think that this would end up this long) and I’ll be discussing how I have felt over the last year being on anti-depressants and why my perceptions have changed completely on them.  

Thank you so much for reading today’s post; I know it’s quite a personal post but I thought it was important to talk openly (or as openly as I felt comfortable with) about what has been going on with my mental health. It can only take one conversation to help and while I’m not the most open person on the planet, I still think it’s important to talk to someone you trust AND a professional. Have a great day! ☀️

My Reverse To-Do List.

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Today I wanted to talk about something  I do when I struggle with my mental health. It’s not for everyone; it won’t work for everyone and it might not even sound like your cup of tea, but that’s okay too. This is just what I do to try and get myself back on track if I’m feeling a very heavy mental struggle, I call it the “reverse to-do list”.

What’s a reverse to-do list?

For me, this is a list that I write down everything I do throughout the day, except I don’t do it all in one go like a normal list. I write it down as I’ve finished the task. The reason for this is because when you write it down when you have finally finished the task, you’re celebrating a little win each time whereas if you write a large list of what needs done that day, it can become overwhelming and de-motivating.

Over the last few months, I have began to have very depressive episodes and if you know me or even just follow me on social media, you’ll know I like to be productive and plan activities, especially over the weekend. However, when a depressive episode hits, even getting out of bed is a struggle. (I haven’t been diagnosed with depression but having done my research on symptoms and signs, as well as mentally living and feeling the way I do sometimes, that’s why I call them depressive episodes.)

One Saturday I woke up at 7am because I wanted to be up early to get ready for the local parkrun that morning. Everytime I sat up, I had to lie back down because mentally, I was being pushed down. I tried and tried and I just couldn’t get up, I was still lying there at 11:30am and it was torture. Wanting to be productive, wanting to get on with your day but not having the mental strength, it was frustrating. So after a few hours of feeling like I couldn’t move, that’s where the idea of the reverse to-do list came in.

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If you’re not feeling great or you don’t want to put a lot of pressure on yourself, I would highly recommend trying to do this for yourself. The simplest tasks such as getting out of bed which are deemed as normal, can be quite overwhelming so you can even add that. Brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, washing your face or even changing out of one pair of pajamas into a fresh new pair, is really all it takes.

Here’s an example of one of my reverse to do lists and because I started to write this list, I achieved more with my day surprisingly. This isn’t the case every time but on this particular day, I didn’t expect to change my bed clothes or meditate that evening.

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Obviously as a disclaimer, I’m not going to write pretty lists when I’m feeling like I can’t get out of bed. I write them on my phone, usually in my Evernote app and then later on that evening if I’m feeling better, I write them out neatly with my nice pens (Doing this is very therapeutic). It gives me a sense of accomplishment seeing that I was productive during the day, even if I felt like I wasn’t at first.

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I find this is something that really helps me and if you have anything else that I could do in addition to this, please let me know. I love trying out new techniques to see what works and what doesn’t (for me). Thank you for taking the time to read this! 

Training for a 5K Run: Running and Negative Mental Health?

Have you ever had a negative run or ran when your mental health was very low? There’s a saying that goes “The only workout you regret is the one that you skipped” and when you hear people telling you that exercise is one of the the best anti-depressants, one would assume that the majority of your problems go away if you just “run it off”. 

Mental health is something that I talk about on the blog sometimes but in general, I try to keep my “online presence” very positive, or as positive as I can be. I made the decision over the last year to not be so open about my negative mental health because it’ s very personal to me and because it can be very hard to deal with, I struggle to share that with the people around me, never mind the Internet. 

Today I’m going to open the lid of that box and share my experience of what it was like running when I was at a very low point. 

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Scott had planned out a run for us but I didn’t know where it was or how long it was going to be. It was a Friday night so while I should have been happy that I had finished work for the week, I could relax and enjoy my second run of my 5K training; that reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. 

He was my only motivation getting ready because I knew he was looking forward to it, and I had been all day up until that night but all I wanted to do was lie in bed and cry until I fell asleep. He brought me down to where we were going to run and it’s actually a really nice towpath that we’ve walked before so I was familiar with the scenery. 

I’m a tracker. I like to track my progress in almost everything I do and running is no exception so when my fitness tracker wouldn’t work, that made me feel slightly worse that in the end, I gave up with it. It came round eventually but I really didn’t care at that point, I just wanted to run. 

20170610_094301(This part of the path is further on down but I took a few photographs from our last visit.)

People say running is good for your mental health, it clears your head and helps you gain perspective on what’s going on negatively. Mentally, running made everything worse. I can’t describe when you’re in such a negative place how many little moments, big moments, negative thoughts, self-critical thoughts and imagined scenarios pop up in your mind.  I lost count; it’s a very scary place to be in because you feel out of control and that night I was. I tried to control my breathing but then my breathing started to get so short and quick that it was almost turning into a panic attack. I cried quite a few times on that run, and I really tried to hide it but I don’t think that worked on Scott. 

I knew I was running faster than the first time and because I was embarrassed of my time last time, running faster gave me that motivation to not get that time again. I felt like I was running away from everything; I was running away from my responsibilities’, my past, my scenarios that I made up in my head that had become so real, my thoughts, my emotions and I thought the faster I run, the faster my head won’t be spinning with these thoughts.  It’s like being in a trapped room that you can’t get out of.  

He stayed quiet for most of the run which is what I needed. I know there are the type of people who want the comfort, the cuddles and the supportive words and I admit, I can be one of those people sometimes. More often than not, I just need to be on my own, in silence while I try and let the very negative emotions pass, and if I need to cry, then I cry.  

I started to crack almost half way through thinking I couldn’t do it anymore, I almost just sat on the ground and cried but I felt like I would have disappointed myself if I didn’t finish the run. I continued with Scott until less than a mile away and I was so close to saying “can we just stop now?” when his phone lit up and said “only 0.85 miles to go until your destination”,  and I just knew I couldn’t quit then. 

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We finished the run and Scott asked me did I know what pace I was doing or did I even know what time we had hit. I didn’t know because I wasn’t paying too much attention to my watch or even the time. We had knocked off six minutes from our overall time, so almost two minutes from each mile which was incredible considering how disappointed I was with our Monday night run. It was actually around the 36 minute mark from his phone but I didn’t hit my watch off at the 5K mark, so I did in fact do the run in faster than this. He kept saying how proud he was of me and how well I done, and it was genuinely so lovely, I’m glad I made him proud despite how I felt.

So did I feel better once I finished my run? Physically, yes. When you finish something like a run or a really stressful workout, you do get this wave effect that passes through your body and physically, it feels like it’s breathing a sigh of relief. How did I feel mentally? Nothing; zero, zilch. I still felt sad, I was disappointed in myself for not being able to control the way I reacted to my feelings. I was tired but it wasn’t from the running. 

I understand that this training series is meant to be about my running progress and how excited I am about my first trained 5K but I would feel like an absolute fraud if I either didn’t tell you about the run at all like it didn’t happen or I decided just to leave out how I really felt. My mental health is something I’ve struggled with for over a year now and this was one of the many days where it bared everything, so while it might not be the nicest thing for me to type out and relive, it’s an experience I got through, and at the end of the day, isn’t that the most important thing?

If you want to catch up on the first post, that was based around my first run and it was a general introduction into what I’m training for, so you’ll find that right here.  Thank you so much for reading, I know it wasn’t my usual content, but I appreciate you listening to what I had to say.