Mental Health Update: Self-Harm, Medication and Counselling

In December, I finally reached out for mental health support, realising I was starting to get to breaking point. I knew I couldn't keep going any longer and instead of getting better, it only seemed to be getting worse. 

After Christmas and a very difficult family Boxing Day, I decided I needed to take action now and it could no longer wait. I've never got along with my mother's husband, and he treats me so poorly. He made a bunch of comments directed at me and whilst everyone else would excuse the cruelty due to being drunk, I don't think that should be used as an excuse. I will never allow drugs to be used as an excuse for actions, and if it causes actions that harm others, then that is a reason to stop using. 

January was my lowest month. I would sob throughout the day constantly. I had very little motivation for anything. I was emotionally and mentally drained, physically exhausted without doing anything. I wasn't sleeping for more than a couple hours at a time. I would constantly think about L and message him for support. He tried to be present for me, but he wasn't there in the way I needed him to be and sometimes it just made matters worse. 

I found myself thinking that life would be better without me in it and whilst I would never call myself suicidal, apparently that's exactly what it was. Suicidal ideation. I would google painless ways to kill myself and the quickest or easiest ways to do so. I never thought I would go through with it because I told myself I wasn't strong enough. What I did do was hold a knife constantly, scratching myself with it, but not hard enough to leave marks. I was honestly scared of myself. There was times I no longer knew what I was capable of behind closed doors. 

I reached back out to the GP and mental health nurse in the new year and decided to start taking anti-depressants. I was originally put on sertraline 25mg once a day (OD) for 2 weeks, and then this was increased to 50mg OD after little side effects. I didn't find that it made anything worse and whether it was a placebo effect or not, I felt like things were easing. 

I also started to take vitamins to help improve my mood. I love these vitamins from Nutravita. I love the size of the packets and the resealable design. I think they're great value for money. Plus, the tablets themselves are relatively small and tasteless which makes them easy to swallow. I have no complaints about the product. Vitamin D is shown to have a strong correlation to mood and depression, whilst vitamin B12 helps improve energy. 

At my one month review, I was also prescribed sleeping tablets in the form of zopiclone. I was warned upfront that the medication was addictive and shouldn't be relied on as a regular medication, however, as a short term remedy it was okay. I never used it more than once a week and I only ever used it before a work shift, when I needed to be well rested. It worked great for me. The first few times, I fell asleep within 30 minutes and it was the first time I'd slept through the night in a long time. I slept for over 8 hours each time. The only downside I found with it was the taste. It was revolting and the taste lingered for 24 hours each time. It was so bad, I couldn't even drink water because each swallow made it worse. 

Alongside medication, I finally reached out to the university wellbeing service and also the Nottingham IAPT service. Both services relatively quickly screened me with an initial consultation. I am so thankful to the university who offered 6 weeks minimum of counselling sessions with a short wait period, allowing me to start when I returned from Jamaica. I will share about my counselling experience going forward for sure. The IAPT service put me on a waiting list for CBT, which I still haven't heard back from.

Both utilised questionnaires to measure and score the severity of depression and anxiety. For depression, the PHQ-9 questionnaire scored me 21-24/27, classifying the depression as severe. The GAD-7 score for anxiety was low in comparison which is what I expected. 

I was also forwarded self-help resources whilst waiting for the services. The one I've found the most helpful is a self-guided mental health support app called Silver Cloud. This is a free, online therapeutic programme which you can work through in your own time and at your own pace.