I have never studied medicine but I know a lot about it because I have watched both Casualty and House, plus I have been personally ill on numerous occasions, so I feel this makes me qualified to write this verbose verbiage about health and health practitioners.
The best thing about having a diagnosis is that you are only allowed one per person so if you have, say, bubonic plague (I thought I had that once, but it was only an ingrown hair) then medical professionals will look at your notes and say "Ah, I see you have OCD and depression" - the point of stating you have any aches or pains from this point on is muted as they can quite easily believe this is due to depression and pointing out any other reason can be put down to spending too much time on Wikipedia - "These strange black swellings in your armpits are probably a symptom of that." If you have leprosy and your extremities begin to fall off you, you can be certain that this too is all in your mind.
It would be nice if doctors, nurses, and organ-grinders would allow us to have maybe up to two separate and unrelated illnesses. That way they would notice when you were physically ill and they might you give you medicine or send you to a hospital before your toe falls off. Yes, my toe fell off, and they didn't even let me keep it. It's a good thing that blood clot was just a symptom of my depression or I might have died.
I have a friend who plays a game of "how long can I go without telling them I have schizophrenia". This is mainly because once they find out that you have a pre-existing condition they will decide that there is nothing wrong with you after all, even if bits of you have turned green, or if you have accidentally broken your arm and it definitely isn't a delusion.
I reckon it is that having a complex health problem can cause confusion and doctors are no less confused than the rest of us. They have brains full of medical facts, maybe that means there is not much room left for new information. And of course they have the same prejudices as real people, so maybe they are just being stubborn about whether mentally unwell people are allowed to have a physical problem as well.
I do not know how they could fix this easily. They do need to look at notes and know what is already wrong with people, but they could drop the prejudice a bit and look upon a broken leg with an open mind.
You know what worse than being sick? It's having your head go off at three hundred miles an hour, with the doom of your existence, having to be polite to rude receptionists, who deem that you are obviously ok and don't need treatment.
The old lines of, '[whomever it concerns] is off on holiday.'
Yeah but I'm about to turn into the hulk with a bad hangover. All that happens is a dismissal. You end up returning to your bed hoping that tomorrow might be more successful. So after three weeks of this politeness show down, you do end up taking a rocket to the moon.
All that you get from your care providers is, 'have you worked on your early triggers?'
As if you hadn't been trying to keep balanced and that you were too careless to notice your worsening condition.
Maybe if they looked up their message list, they would realise, I had been frequenting the place like a shabby hobo. It was not to lock eyes on the receptionist but to actually get help! The utter feeling of disgrace, having to spill out the tormenting facts of my condition, to get seen, as the only way to tell if someone is unwell.
Of course, they have to make a judgement call, but sometimes you lose the right to have privacy. Only way to ensure treatment is to ensure that someone sees you and looks into your problem. I mean they say it's all about dignity. In reality its some harassed community psychiatric nurse putting a band aid over a leak and hoping it will stay in place; not knowing how much pressure is behind the dam that is your visible behaviour.
Just because I may not act ill doesn't mean you can guess what is going through my head. A bit of preventative help is always better than trying to clear up after an epic breach in your self-control. When your behaviour becomes erratic and self-endangering.
Polite doesn't mean ok. It just means there is a mask covering all the problems that happen due to having a serious mental illness. We are told to be appreciative of everyone that cares for us. Yet at the same time for every patient who is considerate, the health professionals should be grateful too. It is a long road to find the correct level of trust and openness so that issues are dealt with promptly but one that all should consider; be they patients or staff.
Secretly I am mad. Although like all secrets people find this out. I just pretend to be the same old me and nothing of consequence really happens because of it. I have funny thoughts but turn them into short stories that I'm convinced will win me a Nobel Prize. On my insecure days I think that the world press will make a mockery of me and my book will end up in ASDA's bargain bin along with James blunt newest cd.
Whilst I'm not trying to be the next J.K. Rowling I am found frequenting coffee shops as my fame has not hit its peak and I can still enjoy a coffee and people watch. Of course depending on my mood decides the fate of where I will have coffee. If I'm feeling pretentious it's always good to head to Starbucks. If I'm feeling creative one of the one offs down little travelled streets away from busy commuters is best. When I'm skint some instant coffee whilst I sulk around my flat.
Of course I planned to have a bohemian dwelling with strange art on the walls and floors. I would have fairy lights hanging from the ceiling and have an Indie's greatest hits playing as background whilst I formed my arty type façade. Yet none of this has really come into existence. My walls are beige and I have no weird collections. My friend has a collection of dolls which she designs and makes them clothes. At this moment I am trying to think up what I could have a collection of. I was thinking a selection of teddy bears in tutus but I can sew and don't have the concentration.
I was thinking I should have craft skills, a friend I have does pyrography and burns art onto wood. So far I have discovered I'm terrible at knitting, crochet, juggling and playing the guitar. I was hoping for some innate gift to do something brilliantly but now I realise it takes practice, determination and hours of time spent honing the craft for it to become a skill. My skills at the moment are sleeping on the bus and getting off at the right stop and self-deprecation. Although self-deprecation is more of an annoyance. One that can irk people so now one of my accomplishments is needing to be adjusted into something more optimistic and cheery. I tend to just smile as this is pretty passé and doesn't offend.
So the secret to being mad and not let it affect you is to find something that interests you and keeps you preoccupied. Find things to talk about that aren't to do with your medication or when you are next seeing your shrink. Check out bands online or play scrabble. The important thing is to just keep moving forward. Don't regret your mistakes - learn from them.
The first time that I found out that I was suffering from depression came as a complete surprise to me.
I'd gone to the doctor after three months of getting two to three hours sleep at night: and as a result binge watching boxed sets of dvds. I went in to the doctor and told him how I was feeling and sort of broke down in front of him. He calmed me down and reassured me that I wasn't the first person this had happened to, and explained to me that the lack of sleep was a symptom of the wider illness - and then dropped the "D-Word". I wasn't sure how to feel.
I had some friends who suffered themselves, but I had others who asked the questions we've all been asked. "What can I do to cheer you up?" (Answer: Stop asking that question) "Have you tried not being depressed?" (Answer: Yes - and no it doesn't work like that) and my personal favourite, "How can you be sick if you are able to go out for a walk/meet someone for lunch?" I never figured out an answer to this one, but one day I met the person who asked it most often, and spent the whole time shaking and crying. She stopped asking after that.
If I could give three pieces of advice to anyone suffering from depression it would be this:
1) You are not alone - when I first told people I was surprised how many people said that they had been or knew someone with depression.
2) If you are worried, go and see your doctor - I put my hands up on this one, I'm the worst for ignoring this. I procrastinate for as long as I can - but it's invariably been the right thing to do. Your doctor might hold meetings for people so you have people going through the same thing as you, they might have counselling available, or they might know a group you can join locally.
The one I attended was called Changes - and going there was one of the best things I ever did. Everyone there (including the group leaders) had experience of depression, and as a group we explored depression as a whole, learning to recognise symptoms, learning what helped each of us personally, and best of all we could see each other getting better - even if we couldn't see it in ourselves.
3) If and when you get medication from the doctor - avoid reading the side effects. I learned this when they put me on my first set of pills - I innocently read the side effects - and because of that I spent three months worried that I would start expressing breast milk!
I want to be clear, these are all just suggestions. Some things work for some people and not for others. And I know that what works for me when I'm anxious is not the same as what works when I'm sad, and what works when I'm angry is different again. So, y'know, take it with a pinch of salt.
I'm sure you know how to breathe - you're probably doing it right now - so this is dead easy. Inhale for a count of five; pause; exhale for a count of five; pause. And repeat. Breathe right down into your belly. To make sure you're doing this, put your hands on your belly, so your fingertips just touch after the exhale; they should move apart by a centimetre or two as you inhale.
Research says that deep breathing can set off all kinds of good reactions in the body, and you don't need any special equipment. You can do it anywhere. Some people count their breaths as a form of meditation. Some people like to imagine breathing out their anxiety and letting it blow away. I like to picture the oxygen flowing in and bouncing around my cells, but I'm kind of a nerd.
I know, it sounds like so much effort when you feel like crap; and the word "exercise" makes me cringe, thinking of P.E. at school and people in shiny lycra; but I'm not asking you to run a marathon here. Just walk to the shop, or do a few stretches. I get really tense in the shoulders when I'm anxious, and it's almost a vicious circle, where feeling tense reminds me of feeling anxious and that makes me tense and... so, stretches.
Find an instructional video on youtube, for yoga or tai chi or something. Alternatively, find a couple of cheesy pop songs and dance around the room like a numpty. Hey, it works.
Music can be great for relaxation, but it has to be the right music - not so much with the cheesy pop songs. A nice bit of romantic classical, maybe some Chopin; people make playlists of this sort of thing. Look for relaxing classical, specifically, because some pieces are all trumpets and drums (and the odd cannon), which is great for the last night of the Proms but not so much for this. And Vivaldi, bless him, has unfortunate associations with hold music; your call matters to us!
Anyway, find your bit of music, switch it on, and close your eyes. Concentrate on it. Are there different instruments? different people playing? Are the notes rising or falling? fast or slow? Just think about the music, and there's no room for anything else.
Yes, doodle, not draw. Maybe you think you can't draw, or you can draw but then you judge your drawings; so you're not drawing, just doodling. Make a few shapes. Fill them in. Make a stick-man. Make another. Make a stick-man up a ladder. One going under the ladder. Something falling. Keep going.
You don't have to do stick-men, obviously. (Why wouldn't you? Stick-men are awesome.) The point is to focus on your pencil, and your paper, and what you're doing right then. Doodling is entirely without consequence.
OK, I'm biased, I admit it; I'm a knitter. If I convert ten people I get a free ball of yarn, and the hundred-odd balls I have right now just aren't enough. And I also admit that knitting can be frustrating when you make a mistake and have to rip it out and re-do it. But just doing something really simple, the same action over and over again, the work of your hands visibly making something... I think it's pretty cool. You don't have to follow a pattern or anything; you can just make squares, or, hey, a long enough rectangle is a scarf.
There are other hobbies that fit the same sort of groove - sewing, and whittling, and probably all sorts of things I don't know about. (But knitting is the best, obviously.) Find one. Try it. Let me know how it goes.