For a very long time I thought I was coping. My parents are now elderly and my father is on at home dialysis, my mother is in remission from cancer. I do a lot of running around for them, especially as you can imagine during COVID.
My work is highly pressurised, but that is what it is.
In February of this year, I got a mega migraine. This isn’t wholly unusual as I do suffer from migraines, but I logged off early on that Friday afternoon to try and sleep it off, but when it hadn’t gone by the Sunday I was getting worried.
Calling in sick I booked a doctors appointment and this was just at the beginnings of the rumblings of COVID so I was still able to see a nurse. Bless her, this poor nurse was hit with a jibbering wreck. As soon as as she asked me what was wrong I broke down crying. Trust me, I was as surprised as she was. The migraine was bad, I felt strung out from all the running around for people in my family and the pressure of work was all too much. I hadn’t slept properly for years (maybe 3-4 hours a night due to my anxiety around all the things I needed to do and what would happen if I didn’t get them done).
The nurse, despite her surprise was brilliant. She let me blubber at her about all the things which had been building up, and she suggested I take a couple of weeks off work, and I also think about contacting a team called IAPT for some help.
At the time I wasn’t really in the place to think about this, but I went home and cried for a few hours. I had this overwhelming guilt about being signed off work, not wanting to do things for other people and just wanting to hid away.
The initial two weeks flew by where I felt like all I did was sit on the sofa and cry intermittently. I did however look at the IAPT website and complete the self referral form. This scared the life out of me as one of the sections was about if I wanted to kill myself and if I was going to, how would I do it. I appreciate now that was to assess if I was a critical case or not. I am just going to point out now that my answer was no, and I have no thoughts of this nature.
At the end of the two weeks, I had to speak to a doctor as COVID had really started to talk hold. I could hardly get through the phone call without crying, so I was signed off again for another 2 weeks, and the doctor recommended that I go onto some medication to help ease the anxiety I was feeling as well as some sleeping tablets so I could try and get a full nights sleep. I initially went on Lustral, which is an antidepressant, but is also used to help manage anxiety, and zopiclone as a sleeping tablet. I have always been against taking these sorts of tablets as I did try when I was at uni, but I found that they made me not feel like me, but that was almost 20 years ago and decided I needed to try, even if it was just that I could get a good night’s sleep.
Within a week, I had started sleeping better, and I could stop crying, which was a bonus. I also had an initial phone call with the IAPT team, and they talked to me about starting CBT, but the waiting list was 6 weeks. I accepted this as I wasn’t really in the place that I wanted to start immediately (in fact I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to do it at all).
Just as I was starting to feel a little better in myself, I went to see my parents (this was just before full lockdown). We had gone out for the afternoon and unusually my mum had been very pleasant for the afternoon… that was until we were driving home from having a little lunch out. We were all talking and she commented on something, to which I made a light hearted comment – my dad and my aunt who were also in the car laughed, but my mum took offence. This isn’t unusual. She sat in the car for the rest of the journey with her making seething remarks and then staring out of the window not responding. I apologised if I caused offence, but this fell of deaf ears.
Back at their home, I went back in rather than leaving straight away, as my Dad needed me to do something for him. Mum sat on the sofa refusing to look at me. I did what needed doing and decided I would leave as the atmosphere was causing a level of anxiety I wasn’t comfortable with. I went to say good bye to her her, and she just said – I don’t care if I never see you again.
Now… usually when my mum is like this I just try and keep the peace, as it is far easier than arguing with her, but this time something in me snapped, and I just said, if that is what you want then fine, you’re a fucking arsehole anyway. I regretted it instantly and apologised to my dad for swearing in front of him (I would never normally, even though usually I punctuate most sentence with “fuck” with people who know me really well). This ended in my mum screaming at me in the driveway as I tried to get in my car, and me telling her that she was a vile woman who had always made me feel like nothing. My aunt was begging me to come inside and I refused and drove off.
I stopped the car around the corner, sobbing my heart out because I felt intense guilt for speaking my mind. I called my sister, who in a matter of minutes had already spoken to my mum and I ugly cried down the phone at her (people around me in that road must have thought I was having some kind of seizure).
I managed to drive myself home, and I later spoke to mum on the phone and semi resolved the argument although she maintained it was me who had said I didn’t want to see her and that she couldn’t understand why I had been so nasty to her. I just sucked it up.
This incident set me back somewhat, as it triggered a lot of things that I usually keep hidden under the surface.
When it came time to speak to the doctor again, I must have sounded pretty stressed out as they signed me off again renewed by prescription, asked if the IAPT team had been in touch and made arrangements to speak to me again in 2 weeks.
This two weeks, I did only what I absolutely had to for my parents, and actually did some productive things. I redecorated parts of my house and took some walks. I spoke to a member of the IAPT team again who said that they would be assigning me a therapist in the next few weeks and they would call me to discuss.
I was starting to feel much better as full lock down kicked in, and decided I should try going back to work. The doctor said I needed to do this gradually, so I started on only a few hours twice a week, and built up from there.
I woke up one morning with a rash all over me and could hardly breath. By this time me and the doctor were on pretty good terms, but this meant a video call and a confirmation that I was allergic to something I was taking (I had been building up the dosage over the prior 6 weeks).
This meant stopping the Lustral and the zopiclone immediately – withdrawal is a bitch and that is all I am going to say on the matter, then starting on citalopram. I found this one much harder to get used to, causing all sorts of dizziness, headaches, odd dreams, headaches and generally feeling a bit odd. I started on 10 mg, and I have been upping the dosage (under the doctors supervision) every 6 weeks so now I am on 30mg and just starting to get used to this dosage.
Around the same time as the change in medication I received a phone call from someone called Scott who would be my therapist.
The first session was really a getting to know you type of affair. We talked about a lot of different things. My love of art and travel, he talked to me a bit about CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and what it could and couldn’t do for me, and the techniques we could look at using. This all seemed fairly easy. Scott was almost instantly on my wavelength (which was remarkable as I am rarely on many other people’s wavelengths) and he also recognised very quickly that I had done a lot of self research and I had a pretty high intelligence level, so didn’t try to undermine potentially what I already knew. He was amusing but never patronising and made me feel very at ease.
So this is my journey on looking at how to change my behaviours towards myself and start looking after me first, so that I don’t get all hung up with the things I need to do for others first.
This has been a pretty long and rambling post, so if you have made it to the end of it…well done – I am not sorry I have shared this, as I want you to know that it can be the smallest thing that triggers a downhill spiral just when you think you have everything under control.
Just remember to be kind to yourself.