If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, depression, panic attacks or any form of mental disorder, I don’t need to tell you how utterly hideous, scary and crippling it is. One in four of us know the horror first hand. I was reminded that this monster can come out of the shadows anytime when, last week, I almost had my first panic attack in over two years. So I hope that today’s announcement by the Prime Minister, to overhaul mental health care with a focus on children and teenagers, will be a step in the right direction to identifying and managing these conditions better so that those of us who suffer with them can get on and live our lives.
When anxiety rears its head.
It is over two years since I was diagnosed with PND and I have been well for 18 months.
But last week, I had a bit of a relapse, brought on by starting Cerazette*, the mini-pill (ironically to regulate my hormones) and I was reminded of just how awful the anxiety/depression beast can be. That it can lie dormant for months, even years and then something triggers it and it rears its ugly head again.
And boy, is it ugly.
Although I work hard on my mental wellbeing, I had completely forgotten how debilitating the monster in our heads can be when it takes hold. And although I would quite like not to have been reminded, it was a prompt to me to be grateful for my mental health, when I am well and to think of all those people right now who are not. Who are completely overwhelmed by life. Who don’t understand what’s happening to them. Who may be so unwell they aren’t even aware that something is happening to them. Because they just don’t know anything anymore.
My PND days were the darkest of my life. I’m certain anyone else will tell you the same. Last week was the closest I have come to feeling like that again since my recovery and it scared the bejeebers out of me because the relapse was completely unexpected. It took me by surprise. Fortunately, I identified the trigger pretty quickly (thank you Google) and stopped taking Cerazette as soon as I realised but it still took a further five days for me to start to feel better. And it has knocked my confidence just a little.
Because I had forgotten the monster could still be there in all its horror.
What is the point of this post?
I’m not sure, really. I just wanted to acknowledge that even when you’ve recovered, even when you are well, even when you are vigilant about maintaining your mental wellbeing and keeping an eye on your triggers, relapses can happen. That once you’ve suffered from anxiety or depression, unfortunately you are more likely to suffer again, not less. And future occurrences are likely to be worse and more intense. And that all the medication and CBT in the world (and I credit both for my recovery) can feel like it’s failing you in the midst of an attack.
Because that is the cruellest thing about anxiety. It warps your rational thought, it cripples your confidence and it makes you feel so unwell that you doubt everything you thought you knew.
You will be ok. (Read the full post about getting help here)
Don’t lose faith. If you ever feel like you’re relapsing, get to work on identifying your triggers immediately. Before it takes hold and becomes so much harder to see. A change in circumstances. Medication. Diet. Caffeine. Sleep patterns. All of these factors (and more) are critical when you’re predisposed to mental health issues. Because when your balance is disturbed, this is when the monster sees its opportunity.
Remember you will be ok and you will get through it. You’ve done it before. You can do it again.
And you’re never alone in keeping those monsters at bay.
*I found a lot of material online from women sharing their experiences to suggest that Cerazette aggravates anxiety and depression. If you’ve had PND or are hormone-sensitive, I would suggest you discuss this with your doctor before taking any hormonal contraception.