My Mental Health Recovery Journey
Its seems appropriate that I am sitting here writing this post while drinking coffee from my Anxiety Mug. This year has been a very important year for me. Especially when it comes to my mental health recovery journey.
The mug has the piece of artwork on it that I created while in Art Therapy. The piece represents Anxiety and how my brain feels when I am anxious.
Why Write This?
I am committing this to paper for multiple reasons:
- It helps me with my thoughts and empty information from my brain. This makes space for more productive thoughts.
- Raise awareness around mental health issues and the resources available to help.
- That my ramblings might help someone to take the steps towards their own recovery journey.
I’ve suffered with my mental health for as long as I can really remember. In the early days I never really understood what was happening. I experienced anxiety and anger over situations and in turn would then become upset and depressed for long periods of time. When I spoke to my very first GP he used to say to me:
“haven’t you a beautiful wife and child, lose two stone and you will be fine…..”
We only had Niamh at the time and Aisling had encouraged me to talk to the doctor about my issues.
I had also gone to see a psychiatrist in the Bon Secures hospital. In hindsight it wasn’t a great result for me. She told me I was suffering from anxiety and prescribed me medication which included Xanax to be taken three times daily. Xanax is highly addictive and is not really prescribed in that way by a lot of health professionals.
Looking back it wasn’t a great start for me. But I am positive that things in the healthcare arena have changed with regards to Mental Health.
Vitamins For The Brain
Having spoken to numerous doctors. I finally agreed to take medication to deal with these issues. While speaking to Dr Mary Behan – she explained that I required “vitamins for the brain” to help with my mood etc. By taking the medication I was able to stabilise my mood. Dr Behan was a breath of fresh air for me. She GOT what I was saying and she empathised with me, unlike those that I had spoken to before. I owe a lot of my recovery to Mary Behan.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Something to be mindful with medication for mental health is that there are different types of medication. And they work in different ways. What medication works for one person may not work for the next. So there is a certain element of trial and error involved.
The medication that I started on is not the same as the one I now take. From time to time I hear people say that they are afraid to take medication to aid their mental health.
When you start on a medication it can take a number of weeks for the medication to begin to work. During this ramp up period it is possible to get some side effects. Brain shocks, tiredness, nausea and irritability were the ones I experienced.
When it comes to switching the type of medication it’s necessary to taper off one and build up on the new drug. I found this difficult as I got a double whammy of the physical symptoms above.
But I would always recount the words of Dr Behan as I think they are a very positive way of viewing medication. My medication allows me focus on things with more clarity.
Over the last number of years I had worked my way up to the recommended m maximum dosage for the particular drug that I was on. I was now under the care of Dr Sebastian in Ashbourne. When I spoke to the GP and I told him that I still didn’t feel that the meds were “working”. Dr Sebastian referred me to Andrew
Work Life Balance
All through my life I had always sought to be the number one at whatever I did. As such in my work life I have always set my sights on the better job the higher salary. I have always put the pressure on myself to be the best that I possibly can. That being said I had just taken a job during COVID and it was in an industry I had no experience in. It turned out to be an extremely pressurised environment and I found myself struggling. During this time I found myself in the Emergency Room of James Connolly in Blanchardstown suffering from chest pains, only to be told it was a panic attack. I was slipping into a deeper depression. I was unhappy with work and unhappy with my overall mood. Luckily for me – the appointment to see Andrew Eustace came through around this time also.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
I went to see the psychiatrist on a Wednesday afternoon at 3pm. He diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety and Disorder (GAD). From my research it is an extremely prevalent disorder. He also told me that I was experiencing Burnout. It’s the first time this had ever happened to me. Where a large part of the population suffers from it, sometimes without having a diagnosis. This was my first official Diagnosis. I was sick. And I needed to take things into hand and get the help necessary to get fixed.
I think that I was lucky that I got to see that psychiatrist as it was he that prescribed admission to the Highfield Day Hospital. It was to be a 4 week program. For me it turned out to take a lot longer than that. The Day Hospital program is covered by most basic health insurance. Because I had my Laya cover, my stay was covered. This was a great relief to know. There was going to be the sacrifice of being on sick benefit. With Aisling’s support I jumped in with two feet.
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
What was it going to be like? I did let a few close friends know what was happening. A few times I heard – it will be like one flew over the cuckoos nest!! Humour is a great way of dealing with mental health issues. Nevertheless the hospital experience was nothing like I had imagined.
It’s a rolling program so clients come and go over the course of your admission. All in all there are about 12 clients on the program at any one time. They use a multidisciplinary approach, so you have a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker and an occupational therapist assigned.
It is such a welcoming place. Knowing that everyone there is on their own journey helps. There is a sense of camaraderie there.
While attending the Day Hospital my Dad passed away on the 18th June 2022. I think that this alone may have set me back a few weeks. My admission in Highfield was about 11 weeks in total. This included a temporary discharge to take our family holiday. On the holiday I was there in body but not really there in mind. So much was running through my head that I was always somewhere else.
My Hospital experience was awesome. I got the opportunity to explore what was going through my mind. Group discussions helped me to better understand what I was experiencing. I was not alone.
They gave me the tools to deal with my issues.
We took classes on:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – CBT
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – ACT
- Compassion Focused Therapy – CFT
- Art Therapy
- Decider Skills
All of which combined to help me get better.
I referenced the mug at the start of this post. The image that is on that mug is one that I painted in an Art Therapy group. To me it represents what anxiety feels like in my head.
Time to Move On
I left the job that I was unhappy with and applied for a role that was more suited to my values. I was delighted to be offered the position. The world is now my oyster!
What Has My Mental Health Recovery Journey Thought Me?
When you start to feel a little different – reach out and talk to someone. Perhaps even seek professional help. Talk to a trusted friend or reach out to your GP. Maybe even take a look on the Help Lines Page of this website to see who you can speak to.
If medication is prescribed. Do your research. Keep an open mind. I have heard of people who refuse point blank to take medication. That may work for them. I would never advocate against taking medication as it has been such a help to me. Make your decisions based on your careful research and not on the social media experts. Make the decision that is best for you.
If you are lucky enough to get help from someone – take it and embrace it. I have experienced people who have been offered help but refuse it. Too proud to take the step. Don’t let pride get in the way of recovery. You will feel so much better and proud of yourself when you begin to take the steps towards getting better.
I have an awesome support system in place. Aisling and the kids help me so much. They also motivate me to keep on going and not give up. Build your support system – surround yourself with good people who will tell you the truth. My system keeps me grounded. They will let me know when I am out of line and also when I am on the right track.
Finally, give your recovery your best shot. More than likely things will not get better immediately. But consistent work will move you towards a better future. So don’t give up. Stay strong and have belief in yourself.
That’s all the good stuff that I have learned. But I also learned a few bad things. There are people out there that have used my speaking out about mental health against me. Or it has been referenced in situations where that should not be referenced. But that’s not my fault or issue. Despite the bad stuff I still would speak out – it’s good for me and could prove useful to someone else.
Ultimately I have learned that I am not everyones cup of tea. But as a wise man once said to me.
“I may not be everyones cup of tea – but I am someones cup of coffee!”
Just don’t ever tell him I said he was wise! He’s bad enough as it is.
When Life Gives You Lemons
I hope that by writing this I am raising awareness that there is light at the end of the tunnel and in the theme of The Lemonade Kart. When life gives you lemons – you can always make lemonade and enjoy them a little more.