Following on from her previous post Jess has returned!
I recently got a tattoo of a serotonin molecule on the inside of my wrist. It’s widely believed that this is the chemical which, when imbalanced, can be one of the causes of depression.
While I was having the tattoo done, I explained to my tattooist what it was and why I wanted it done. I told him I had been suffering from depression for 5 years now, but am feeling the best I have for years thanks to this little chemical being kept in order by my meds. While we were talking, he brought up the subject of self harm, now this is something I have never done, and I feel very lucky that I’ve never felt the need too nor have I ever felt suicidal.
Kieran jokingly said in reply “tattoos are enough pain for you then.” Thinking about it as he said it, he was right, four of my six tattoos – I had done when I was feeling low, or was just coming into a high. I don’t know why, but I like the idea that I have replaced self harm with tattoos.
This time last year, I was at my lowest point. I took 6 weeks off work (something I usually enjoyed) and upped my meds to 40mg a day. A few weeks after being signed off work, I also started my first session of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). My new mental health worker was a big, typical straight talking Yorkshire lass, who herself suffered from depression and anxiety. This gave me some comfort, and for the first time since being diagnosed I felt I could talk openly about the effects depression really had on my every day life. I had my first panic attack during one of our sessions, I was terrified but she helped me through and explained what was happening inside my brain.
For the first time, there was someone to reassure me that it wasn’t just me. It wasn’t just me that felt like the whole town was staring as I walked through the centre, or that the group of women at the other side of McDonalds knew something was wrong with me and were definitely laughing about it. Or that it wasn’t just me that questioned whether my friends actually like me, or just don’t have it in them to tell me to piss off and leave them alone.
I got discharged after around 5 or 6 weekly session of CBT. During the session when she discharged me, I filled out the questionnaire (yes, that bloody questionnaire), and was shocked to be told by my mental health worker that, when I first came to see her, had this been 15-20 years ago, when the questionnaire’s were used to decide whether or not somebody needed to be sectioned, then I would have been sectioned there and then. In fact, my “score” was well over the total that in years gone by, justified sectioning. (For non-suffering readers, this questionnaire I speak of is basically a load of questions on how you feel, how long you have felt it, whether you avoid certain situations etc.)
I’ve just been for an unplanned visit to my mental health worker (well, it was unplanned 2 weeks ago) this evening, and I realise how lucky I am to have an NHS employee in these times that will see me in 2 weeks or less when I unexpectedly call. I’m not feeling particularly depressed, in fact I’m very happy right now, even more so after the support and kind words I’ve received from my friends and family (most that didnt know about my depression) since my first post for the moose.
No, in all honestly, I needed that appointment to talk about the anxiety I was feeling towards my future (going to uni, moving out etc) and just to get the big kick up the arse that I need to get my motivation, positive thinking and assertiveness back.
Over the last year, I’ve gotten a lot better at spotting the signs of my mental health deteriorating, and these are the three main ones. Although admitting I need a bit of support again is still hard, I managed to pick up the phone and book an appointment before my depression got unmanageable. In the words of my mental health worker this evening after filling in that chuffing questionnaire – “We’ve got it just at the right point, I’m glad you rang when you did.”
It’s amazing how a few drunkern chats on a weekend and 40 minutes sat in a room with somebody can make you feel so much more positive. The hardest part for most people is talking, but it’s often the best medicine.
I’ve never really been one to talk openly about my depression, in fact most of my family members that knew before my first blog for the moose, only knew because my mum or brother had told them. I can only think of a handful of people I have actually told myself, face to face. Saying that, I found writing my last blog a massive relief, I was very surprised with the reaction I got from both people that know me and those that don’t, in fact even a coach that took my FA level one course, and is head of the youth academy at my beloved Rotherham gave me positive feedback on the blog. For that, I’m grateful – to everyone that read my post, and everyone that showed support. Not only that, it’s given me the confidence to talk to my friends about what really goes on inside my head, as now they know about it.
So thanks again for reading, and thanks again to the moose for letting clog up his blog with my ramblings and gain an even better support network.
Jess – @jesstemps92