Herein lies a personal post about anxiety and depression, so feel free to skip it and come back tomorrow when there'll be a happier tale to read.
Still here? Thank you.
Today I pulled my big girl panties on and went to see my GP about some issues which have been bothering me for about 3 years. I *think* I had my first panic attack about 3 years ago. At first they were rare, and in exceptional circumstances, like one time when I was walking with a heavy limp and a guy (who had been heading in the opposite direction) saw me, stared like a loon then started following me home. Or the time the lights went off suddenly in the cinema and I thought I'd gone blind, as ridiculous as it sounds. (I have poor light-to-dark adaptation in vision, so I could barely see an inch in front of my face.) Or the time I had a panic attack on Christmas Eve because I'd left my brother's girlfriend's and my dad's Christmas presents at home and I had to face the crowds to get more gifts.
Then they started to get more common, and going out of the house on my own was a strain. If anyone in the street got too close (why is it some people insist on climbing up your arsehole when you're out walking?!) I'd have a panic attack. Sometimes I knew when one was coming and could breathe my way out of it, and sometimes I couldn't.
This morning, in the queue waiting for the doctor's surgery to open (the only way to get an appointment) I had the mother of all panic attacks. I was in a cold sweat, my heart was racing, I couldn't breathe, and I felt so, so sick. I thought I might have to throw up in my handbag.
I had a 2 hour wait to see the doctor but it had to be done. I kept myself calm by reading magazines. Thankfully the waiting room was pretty empty so there was no immediate panic. I went into the room with my list of things written down and said I'd been wanting to come to see her about these issues for a long time and it's not easy for me to talk about this stuff. I just started spitting it out, now or never. The doc printed off a couple of questionnaires about general anxiety disorder and depression, I filled them out, and then she asked me a lot of questions to get to the bottom of things. As I spilled out the things that have been bothering me for so long I started to cry to the point where I was unintelligible. The doctor was there with a box of tissues and was so understanding. She asked why I feel so vulnerable in public and I said it's because of having Fibromyalgia and CFS. Before I was ill I was as strong as an ox and never feared danger, because I could handle myself. Now I'm so weak I can barely squeeze toothpaste, so of course I worry when I'm outside alone.
She said there's probably an element of grief in my depression and she hit the nail on the head. I DO grieve for the 'me' I was before. The one who had a busy job, people depending on me, people looking up to me, people always coming to me to sort out problems as I knew how to solve just about every damn thing that went wrong. I said I took such a lot of comfort from being damn good at my job, even if that's egotistic. She said not at all, a person takes so much self esteem from doing a job well and not being able to work now is bound to affect me. I think that needs to be thought about, dwelled on and dealt with. I didn't ask Fibromyalgia and CFS to come into my life, but here they are and they're not going anywhere, so I need to put the 'old' me to bed and just accept the way things are now. That is easier said than done, especially when the public perception of disabled people is so poor and the ConDem government are doing their best to demonise the sick and disabled to justify their swingeing cuts (instead of focusing on the real problem - greedy bankers and corporate tax evasion - end mini rant!) Not feeling utterly useless is something for me to work on (pardon the pun!) but I think my head will be a better place if I can manage to grieve for what was and move on.
The upshot of today's doctor's visit is I have been put on some medication to help me with the depression and anxiety, and have also been put down for some cognitive behaviour therapy to help me cope.
Hopefully the future is looking rosier, and OF COURSE I'm an idiot for not going to see the doctor earlier.
If there's something you need to see the doctor about desperately, please don't follow my example and wait until you're at breaking point.
Get someone to go with you if you need support (frankly I'd have gone to the GP MONTHS ago if someone had volunteered to come with me), ask the receptionist on the phone if you can get an appointment in advance (if like me you normally have to queue outside to be seen - uber stressful!) and aim to see the most compassionate doctor in your surgery to talk about any mental health issues you may have. Luckily my doc has scheduled in my next appointment with her so I don't have to queue up with the hordes next time.
IF you ever see a GP who is not compassionate (about any issue) and is rude, report them to the practice manager and ask to see another doctor in future. I'm on my 4th GP in the same surgery after seeing some absolute pigs over the years. Each and every person absolutely deserves to be listened to, to be treated with respect, to be believed, to be helped, no matter what your circumstances are.
I will report back on how I get on over the next few weeks on the new medication.
Massive squishy back rubbing hugs to anyone with mental health issues.
Thanks for reading!