Mental Health, the big secret

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In this blog, Amy speaks openly about her challenging mental health following the death of her dad, and her relationship with anti-depressants. Trigger warning: contains references to suicide, depression and poor mental health.

It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the UK currently experience some form of mental health problem, and hospitalisation and suicide rates are rising at an alarming rate. So why, as a nation, are we still so ashamed to ask for help, afraid to speak out? We are ashamed to admit that, actually I am not okay. I’m struggling, I’m hurting.

People like myself.

A difficult appointment with the GP

Back in February 2020, I had made an appointment with my GP with the intention of being signed off work and referred for counselling. My Dad was deteriorating rapidly and I needed to be by his side, to spend as much time as possible with him throughout his last days. My GP told me that I simply couldn’t be referred for counselling yet, as Dad was still alive. I had to wait for bereavement counselling, basically. “We can’t help you until your Dad is dead, here take these pills instead” and she slid a prescription for antidepressants across the desk to me. She probably was a lot kinder than I’m making her out to be, but in my eyes, it felt like I was being told to medicate and life would be easier. I took the prescription but I didn’t take the tablets.

Outwardly I was coping, inside I was crumbling

I knew of so many people who heavily relied on antidepressants and had struggled to come off of them, I didn’t want to be one of those people. And in all honesty, a part of me felt ashamed. I didn’t need tablets to cope with my life. I could deal with this on my own.

The sad reality was, I simply couldn’t. I spent the next 2 weeks by Dad’s side as the cancer destroyed him and he eventually passed away on 21st February. I was numb. I didn’t feel anything, couldn’t process what had happened, I couldn’t cry or grieve. I couldn’t face a life without my Dad. Outwardly I was coping, inside I was crumbling.

The turning point

I think the turning point for me was the breakdown I had during Dad’s wake, my body completely shut down following an earlier panic attack and I had to be taken home. I wasn’t able to face anything anymore. I feel like I spent the next 3 months staring at a wall.

I finally started bereavement counselling with St Barnabas Hospice in June 2020. After 8 sessions, my counsellor broached the subject of antidepressants again. I had told her I’d previously refused to take them. I won’t be one of those people I said.

You just need to regain your fizz

Think of it like this she said; imagine a bottle of fizzy pop in the fridge and it has gone flat. It needs a little pick me up to become fizzy again, a bit of help to get its life back. You are that bottle of pop, you are not completely broken, you just need to regain your fizz.

So, I started taking Citalopram in August. I’m not going to lie; the first 2 weeks were rough. I would zone out; my husband would find me staring into space. I experienced searing headaches that would materialise at random moments during the day and the fatigue was overwhelming, all I wanted to do was sleep. My husband also struggled with accepting me being on the tablets, in his eyes he had failed me, he was supposed to keep me safe and happy and here I was popping a pill every day to make me feel better. But as I explained to him; It’s not you, it’s me!

Speaking to others

Up until recently, I had only told 4 people that I was taking antidepressants, my husband, my sister and two of my closest friends. I didn’t even tell my Mum. I’m not sure why, maybe as I knew my Mum would try to talk me out of taking the tablets and it had taken me so long to accept in myself that this is what I needed.

But at the end of the day, I am a grown woman. I know my own mind (sometimes!) and I know my body and thankfully, I have learnt to know when I need a little help. When I need some more fizz in my bottle.

People will listen, people will help you

So, if you are feeling like you have lost your fizz; please, please do not be afraid to seek help. People will listen, people will help you. We seem to be moving towards a culture where more and more people are speaking out online and that is amazing!

Do not be afraid to speak up, there is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, everyone has shit days, some more than others and that is fine. There are brighter days ahead and all those other cliches but you will be okay.

Sending light, love and strength.

Amy Hardy

If you’d like to write something for your blog, just email blog@letstalkaboutloss.org. To read more of what Amy writes on grief and mental health, view her blog here.