After I had my initial diagnosis and completed my first 3 months of counselling with Ieso Online - I was convinced I would be able to help myself when I feel it coming.
But, about 8 months after I finished that first block of online CBT sessions, I had a relapse. A big one. And I say it was A BIG ONE because I was feeling as overwhelmed and hopeless as I was right at the beginning, but even more so, as I now also felt horrible for letting myself get back to that point.
The perpetuated guilt and feelings of failure made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be here. Again.
Thinking back on it now, I still can’t pinpoint how it happened, or even exactly how long I was feeling like shit before I acknowledged that I was in a dangerous place.
But, at some point in early December 2018 I realised that I needed to ask for help.
A part of me STILL refused to admit that I was Depressed and I kept telling myself that I was feeling really run down and tired.
So, when I saw my GP in the first week of December I mentioned that I just can’t seem to get my energy levels up. I omitted that I was also feeling tearful, resentful, useless and overwhelmed ALL OF THE TIME. I thought feeling tired and run down sounded much less dramatic.
Her exact words were: “I’ve known you for very many years, Jeanné, and I have to say you do seem rather slowed down. Not like your normal self. Not at all.”
We both speculated that my Thyroid function might have dipped again and that my Thyroid medication might have to be put up. She also mentioned that I might have to try some different medication for my Migraines (which I DREADED, as the previous load of drugs I tried for my Migraines, made me feel like I was permanently stoned, but not in a good way. I had been relatively medication free - apart from Triptans and painkillers when a Migraine did hit - for about 6 months by then, so I told her that I probably wouldn’t consider any more preventative drugs.)
She ordered a whole load of blood tests and when I saw her a few days later to discuss the blood results, she said that apart from having slightly low Vitamin D levels, everything came back as normal - even the Thyroid. Obviously I was pleased that everything was normal, but also rather upset that I couldn’t just blame my Thyroid for the black hole I was living in.
The GP looked me over again, asked a few more questions, and concluded that she thinks I am suffering from Clinical Depression. I agreed that I was indeed very depressed earlier in the year, but proudly told her that I went through several months of online CBT and that I felt much better.
She congratulated me, but still prescribed some Antidepressants and suggested that I tried them for 3 months and then come back to see her.
I’m not opposed to taking Antidepressants or any medication if I can be relatively sure that it will fix the problem. But, as I read through the leaflet when I got home, I had a feeling that it was going to be a similar trial and error process as the one I had to go through with the Migraine drugs. And while that does sound like a sensible and staged approach, the months of trailing and erroring fucked with my mind, more than the Migraines or now the Depression ever could do - in my opinion.
My personal feelings were that at least I knew what my Migraines, and now my Depression were. At least I kind of knew how to cope with it. But, once I started taking medication to mask one symptom while it created a collection of others, it all became too overwhelming.
So, I was once again brought back to my crossroads of how to move forward, and I decided that I will put the Antidepressants on hold, and try face-to-face, in person, counselling first.
I thought that it would help me a lot to understand where my Depression was coming from. It felt like the puzzle pieces of my life were floating around in my head and I wanted to learn how to put them all back together. I wanted to understand why I felt such exaggerated emotions, and more than anything, I wanted to be able to slow down my mind enough to have the ability to assess if an emotion is disproportionate before I let myself get lost in it.
This was a HUGE step for me. Because the thought of opening my mind’s Pandora’s Box in front of a complete stranger was almost too overwhelming to bare.
But, I knew in my heart that I wanted to UNDERSTAND what was happening in my mind and in my body, and that GETTING HELP was the only way to accomplish that.
Once again, I felt too guilty and embarrassed to spend money on therapy, so I researched a few options on the NHS, all of which can be found here.
NHS Psychological Therapies Services in your area: https://beta.nhs.uk/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/
All of the listed services in my area accepted self-referrals, so I requested a call back from the organisation closest to me, and they replied almost immediately within the same day, and scheduled my Psychological Assessments to take place over the phone the next day.
The assessments were similar to the initial assessments (The NHS Depression Assessments can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/) I had to do for General Anxiety Disorder, Mood Level etc. when I first started with the online CBT with Ieso Online earlier in that year, and yet again they indicated that I was Severely Depressed and Anxious.
The Psychologists I spoke to during my assessments could not have been more helpful and compassionate and I felt supported right from the start. They promptly offered me a block of sessions with a Psychotherapist, along with a load of information and telephone numbers I could access if I needed support before my therapy started.
Of course I was so very, very nervous to go to my first appointment.
I think I was afraid of being judged, or to be told what to do/how to feel. But, I kept telling myself that I was going to see a Professional Mental Health Specialist who WANTS to help people to get better. So, I decided right from the start that in order to get the most from my therapy I was going to be as open, honest and to the point as possible, and that I was going to trust my Therapist.
I think this conviction contributed hugely to the success of my sessions, as I came away from EACH AND EVERY session, from the very first session to the very last one, with such a great feeling of relief and reassurance. Every week was an epiphany for me.
Session by session my Therapist picked me apart and explained why I had certain emotions, and why I had certain reactions to those emotions.
For the first time in my life I felt like the puzzle pieces were starting to fall into place and I was finally starting to see the picture. It was truly the most profound and insightful experience of my life.
I honestly belief that because of who I am, and because of the way I am wired, I would never have started to heal without the insight and comprehension I got from this Therapist. By finally putting all my puzzle pieces back into place, and finally being able to see my whole picture, I was finally able to create a solid foundation from which I could build my emotional strength back up again.
I am now nearly ten months further down the line again, and while I don’t think I will ever not be a Depression or Anxiety sufferer, I feel stronger and more content EVERY DAY. For the first time in years I feel like I am able to think clearly and feel proportionately.
And on bad days, when the black noise or the raging wildfires threaten to consume me, I am finally starting to recognise what I need to do to bring myself back again.
MINDFULNESS IS THE KEY for me. I have to make myself aware that I have an unpleasant emotion. I have to establish what that emotion is. I have to evaluate whether my reaction is appropriate / proportionate / reasonable for my particular emotion. I have to STOP myself if I’m being unreasonable. I have to establish what I can do in THAT MOMENT to move forward. And I have to REPEAT this every time I feel myself slip.
I know it is so frightening to admit imperfection and weakness, and that it can seem inconceivable to ask for help in the world of overachievers, idealists and perfectly happy facades we live in, but the moment you make peace with the notion that asking for help will ONLY MAKE YOU STRONGER, is the moment you will start freeing yourself from your emotional crutches.
So when a relapse happens - TALK TO SOMEONE - ASK FOR HELP - ENABLE and ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE HAPPY.