Now let me be clear on one thing there are people out there in a far worse position than I. I have been very fortunate to have the support of health professionals, charities, friends and family.
One thing that you need and it is probably one of the most important things to have in your corner after medication and treatment is support. This support can come in many forms. It could be support from family, support from friends or support from organisations like the NHS via your GP or other mental health care specialists like psychiatrists or counsellors, charity’s like Mind can help, support and sign post you to other avenues of help.
When you get diagnosed the first person you see is usually your doctor or GP (General Practitioners). These doctors are at the forefront of medicine. I was lucky to have a GP who had knowledge and an interest in mental health to give me their valuable time, trust me on this- It is very valuable. Unfortunately not all people with mental health issues are so fortunate. As in the current state of the NHS sadly the GPs have too many patients, too little time and too few resources at hand. As the media keeps saying- It’s a postcode lottery.
This can lead you into the system which is daunting and scary for those entering that world. As like me, by the time you have finally put up your hands and said “there is something wrong”, you are not in a good place. After all, no well person would visit a doctor if all was okay. When I visited the doctor after I finally admitted I had a mental break I felt anger, embarrassment, self pity and shame. My self confidence and self esteem was at rock bottom. I thought I’d be carried off by the men in white coats to the hospital For some of the things I admitted to the doctor. This did not happen. I was very fortunate.
What I found was compassion, a willingness to listen and a desire to get me well through treatment. The doctor referred me on to the mental health clinic where I was assessed by mental health nurses and doctors and put on various treatments.
When it comes to the medication it seems to be as much an art as it is a science. There are no absolutes. For example medicine “A” may be good for patient “X” but not for patient “Y”, medicine “B” may be suitable for them. It’s as much trial and error as knowledge of treatment. I was put on one or two different medications and in both cases it made me feel worse. It wasn’t until the third try of meds that we found somethings that worked and agreed with me.
The next layer of support and treatment is from counsellors and other mental health professionals. This is in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT. This very simply put is talking therapy. It’s where you talk out what the problem is, that is causing you to be unwell And hopefully help you come to a healthy conclusion. However for something on the surface that looks simple talking therapies can easily became a complex thing depending on what has caused your problem or trauma in the first place. It can be dark and upsetting.
There are also organisations out there willing to help and support you whilst you go through treatment. The first organisation I came into contact with was Mind. Who are a national UK wide organisation who help and support people who are dealing with mental health distress and illness. They organise things such as coffee mornings and therapeutic activities such as art therapy. I was also assigned a case worker to advocate on my behalf and support me in my progress through the system.
Another organisation that became very important to me and my family was a small local charity called Hull Veterans Support Centre or Hull Vets for short. Whose tag line is “Veterans helping Veterans”. Which is exactly what they do. Being a ex-soldier I was able to access the help and support from them. That help could from sorting out benefits claims to just simple being a ear to talk to. They have became my friends and in a way a surrogate family of brothers and sisters.
On one occasion I was in a serious funk posting dark and disturbing statements on social media that gave the veterans who saw it cause for concern. Their solution was to come to my home, collect me and take me to the veterans centre for company and banter with like minded individuals. If you ever served in the military, military banter is not for the faint hearted.
Their input into helping my recovery has been invaluable, you simple can’t put a value on it in terms of money or psychological terms. The reason why is the Hull Veterans have an understanding of the mentality of someone who has served in the Armed Forces. A lot of people in my position will get people with no understanding or knowledge of bipolar or depression or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or any mental health issue through simple ignorance or just lacking first hand experience saying “pull yourself together”. That doesn’t always work no matter how well meant and is appreciated even less when all you feel is darkness, misery, in mental anguish and pain.
On the other hand sometimes it the messenger who is just as important as the message as well as how the message is delivered. If it was anybody else beside a fellow veteran or a loved one like my wife saying “Pull yourself together” that person would probably be given short shrift.
Another layer of support, and arguably the most important is friends and family. If it wasn’t for my wife, children, family, and friends I would not be here, end of.
My wife has stuck with me through all the treatments, medication, darkness and highs. A lesser person would have packed their bags and left with the children in tow a long time ago. She hasn’t and I am truly grateful, words cannot state how grateful I am for that. After everything I have put her through, often being on the receiving end of my dark and nasty turns. That is a testament to the character of my wife Sarah. She married me, had my children and is staying with me despite the many opportunities for her to exit.
The love of my children keeps me grounded. They are the reason I still breath. When I have the dark horrible thoughts of ending things I think of them. That if I was to end it all I would never see them grow up, find love, succeed in life or ask me for my pearls of wisdom. My death would leave a void in their lives and a lot of questions I would not be able to answer through my absence in their lives.
You soon find out who truly cares for you when you have a mental health issue. When people like your friends find out that you have mental health issue one of two things happen- they either rally around you showing that they care or they simply disappear into the ether. If the latter is case- they were never your friend in the first place and you deserve better company.
Well I think I’ve said enough. If you have any questions ask me on here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at @lash1978.
Until my next blog have good mental health,