Bad Mental Health Day

Some days are better than others. Some days feel like an impossibility to get through – you’re sapped of energy, of purpose, of initiative, of drive and of hope. You don’t know if tomorrow will be harder or easier, so you do your best to look after yourself as time slowly passes by. That’s depression.

Meet Henry

Meet Henry.

I created him at an Access Arts workshop. He has a depressive disorder & FND. He also loves pink flowers, art, the theatre, chocolate, going on adventures and talking about uncomfortable but important issues.

Keep an eye out for his fun adventures – he’s just taken a trip to space to spread awareness & break stigma about mental illness across the galaxy.

You’re alive. You’ve survived. You got this.”

While I was looking at the 5kgs I put on during my 5 week hospital stay and thinking about the fact I had been in a mental hospital for 5 weeks, I was beating myself up… but then that small, kind compassionate voice reminded me, “you’re alive. You’ve survived. You got this.”

If you’re in recovery be kind to and nurture yourself. Remember; you’re alive. You’ve survived. You can do this.

Fun Fact: Hospital Disharge

‘Fun’ Fact: when you are discharged from hospital, they don’t expect you to leave “well” and ready to fully engage in normal life, as it was before you were unwell. They wait until you’ve made a change in direction, lasting a few days to show you’re moving toward wellness.

I was so surprised when my Psychiatrist told me that’s how it is. So, I leave the psychiatric hospital, returning home tomorrow and I am excited, thrilled and a little bit apprehensive. I’m feeling better than I was 5 weeks ago, but I am not where you may expect me to be in my recovery – I am not yet “well.” The real test will see how I am going in 6 months time.

If someone you love is being discharged from hospital, they need your love and support to adjust back into life, slowly. Realise they’ve just left a safe, regulated environment, where they didn’t have to cook, clean or work. Leaving can be scary.

So maybe offer to clean their toilet, cook a meal, do some dishes, a load of washing or bring over some groceries. Be a legend.

Remember there will be more good days than before, but don’t be surprised when their are bad ones. Remember that and be a legend.

Be patient, be kind, be empathetic, be thoughtful, be compassionate – show love and genuine care. Be a legend! It will be worth it as you see your loved one become more and more ‘themselves’ again.

So, please, be a legend and lower your expectations. They’re still ‘getting better,’ just in a different environment, at home, hopefully with lots of love.

A Psalm: for Depression

Mighty God, Powerful Saviour;

My heart is breaking at its very core.
    When I look at the sinfulness and brokenness of this world,
    the injustice and hypocrisy –

    I just want to leave it all behind, forever.

My body is so tired and weary –
    every movement aches
    every motion is laborsome.
A knot sits in the pit of my stomach –
    I’m nauseous.
    I’ve stopped eating.
I wake during the night –

    my sleep is restless, fragmented.

My brain has turned against me –
    it has become my enemy.
    It has betrayed me,
    it is trying to kill me,
    it wants me to die –

I have no greater enemy than myself.

I am lost,
I am torn,
I am broken,
I am hurting, and

I feel stuck in the depths of this pit of despair.

But you, Lord, you hear my cry,
    you read my thoughts,
    you feel my pain, my anguish –
and you never abandon me,

    you never leave me alone in the mess.

Lord, please deliver me –
    rescue me from myself

    and the web of lies my brain has caught me in.

Lord, lift my soul from this darkness

    and bring me into your glorious light.

Lord, show me your loving kindness –
    your mercy and compassion.

Don’t leave me alone and abandoned in this lifeless pit.

Lord, please remind me
    of your glorious deeds
    and perfect promises

as you fulfil them every day.

I know the day of the Your return is near!
    But please protect and preserve me
    during these dark hours of the night,
that I may not be destroyed in my despair.

 

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Watercolour cloud painted by Alexandra Ellen on 29.1.18

TMS: The Treatment For Depression You Haven’t Heard Of

One million people in Australia have depression, two million have anxiety, and many have both.

Most individuals who seek treatment for depression recover. Because our brain is continually being moulded and has an incredible capacity to change, psychotherapy (talk therapy) is a proven and effective treatment. As we change our thoughts and behaviours, over time our feelings start to change too. Some people need medication to give their brain a bit of help while they go through the process. The good news is, in Australia 3/4 of those who see a GP for mental illness make a full recovery.

But for some people, like me, medications and talk therapy just aren’t enough. I’ve had depression for sixteen years, seen more counsellors/psychologists that I can count since and have been on medication for over eight years. The medication helps and a lifetime of talk therapy has meant I am high-functioning – I’m not a particularly negative person – I regularly practice mindfulness and have a plethora of strategies that I use in my everyday life… But despite all this, I still struggle with a chronically depressed mood, called dysthymia and recurrent Major Depressive Episodes, which means I go through stages of Double Depression. In a way, I thought I was destined to be depressed

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…until about nine months ago, when I heard about a treatment for chronic/medication-resistant depression called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (or TMS). So I started researching about this treatment that was foreign to me – what is TMS? Was I eligible to try it? How could I access the treatment? What are the side effects? How effective is it?

What is TMS?

The way I understand it, is that it is similar to ECT in the sense it uses an external source – in this case, a coil that repeatedly emits a magnetic field – to stimulate brain activity. Unlike ECT, it does not require aesthetic, cause a seizure and doesn’t have the cognitive side effects.

The magnet at the centre of the coil taps very fast on a specific point on my head – for me, it’s 40 taps in about 7 seconds, repeated 125 times on the left side. It takes 41 minutes. There will be a blue/purple spot permanently on my head while I’m undergoing my first treatment.

As it taps, the magnet stimulates the nerves in the frontal cortex, which is the part of the pain in charge of our logical thinking. The hope is to minimise the effects of depression by stimulating these nerves and increasing blood flow in that area of the brain.

Who eligible for TMS?

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TMS is for people with medication-resistant depression (yup! That’s me!) or those who are unable to take anti-depressants.

However, it’s not recommended or suitable for those diagnosed with epilepsy, have had a stroke, are pregnant or have implants that would be affected by a magnetic field, such as surgical clips, cardiac pacemakers, implanted medication pumps.

How do you access TMS?

Unfortunately, in Australia TMS does not have Medicare number (yet) and it needs to be applied consecutively for a prescribed number of days – which means you have to undergo TMS as an inpatient.

The best way to access TMS in Australia is to find a hospital that offers it as a treatment, make an appointment with a psychiatrist who has admittance rights and does TMS and ensure you have private health insurance with psychiatric hospital cover.

Although it can be inconvenient to take time off from work and/or away from home, most hospitals also offer group therapy, education, access to allied health professionals, art therapy and lifestyle advice. This holistic approach has proven effective and is a vital part of recovery for the patients who participate and take advantages of all the treatment options available while undergoing TMS.

How effective is it and what are the side effects?

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When I was looking at all my options with my psychiatrist my conclusion is this: it may work, but it is just as likely not to work – it seems like a 50/50 gamble. Statistically, it’s not as effective as ECT and there is no way of telling how a person will respond to the treatment until they try it.

However, it has far fewer risks and side effects than ECT or going through another medication change. The only side effects are tiredness and in some cases, a headache. Yep – that’s it! And it has made me very sleepy!
For me then, the only risk is a financial one, but three weeks in a hospital, undergoing group therapy and focusing on my health would be good for me, even if the TMS didn’t work. So, I have approached the treatment optimistic, but without expectation.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a permanent treatment, but I’ve been speaking to many others who have said TMS changed their lives and have been more than willing to return for their ‘top ups.’

Sooooo…

…here I am. I’ve been prescribed 20 TMS treatments, one a day and in-between number 14 and 15. Three days ago I noticed a difference – for the first time in my life, I feel like I have a choice and safe in my head.

The best way I can describe the change in my mind is;

what had always felt like a dark, dense, damp forest with a narrow path and dangerous creatures waiting behind every tree to attack,

now it feels like a spacious, open, colourful meadow on a cloudless day with the freedom to go wherever I want, without fear.

And I am only 3/4 of the way through. I still have six treatments left – Praise God!

I confess, I’m a little upset I’ll have to keep my private health insurance (it’s not cheap). However, it’s a small price to pay for a treatment that has the potential to greatly increase my quality of life.

So, I’m going to embrace this new addition to my life and continue to Praise God for His goodness and perfect plan.

Conversations With Healthy People #1: The Amusing, ‘Really?’

It’s days like today when I’m struggling to summon the energy to be a ‘functioning human being’ that I remember an honest and genuine conversation I had with one of my teenagers during Bible study a few months ago.

I recall this conversation to remind myself of God’s grace, strength and sustaining power that gets me through each day. It’s an encouragement to continue being honest about life, even when it’s painful and sucky. I must confess, it amuses me (greatly) and makes me giggle a little on the inside.

I also find comfort knowing that I can come back and read it whenever I need to.

We were discussing how God uses suffering to deepen our relationship with Him, better understand faith, build His Kingdom and bring Jesus glory. For the sake of application, I briefly mentioned that these truths give me hope, even though I am in pain every day…

…another interruption (but a welcomed one)…

“So, you’re really in pain?”
“Yes.”

“All the time?”
“Uh, huh.”

“You don’t look like you’re in pain.”
“I know.”

“Wait! You were in pain on Friday night?”
“Correct.”

“Are you saying that you’re actually in pain, right now?”
“You’ve got it.”

“…Like, now-now? Standing there?”
“Yup…”

and then he slumped back into his chair with a sympathetic bewilderment written on his face. I think he started to understand, which I am grateful for, even if it was just a little.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation, and it probably won’t be the last. So, I’ll continue to embrace the small opportunities to encourage open and honest dialogue. Conversations that develop empathy and grace to spur one another on to rely on God and persevere in suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NLT) “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”

 

Speak Up

As long as we remain silent, society remains ignorant. We can empower others and ourselves by sharing truth in love! #speakup #behonest #endsilence #breakingstigma

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#speaktruth #love #mentalhealth #depression #chronicpain #endometriosis #endthesilence #chronicillness #awareness #jesus #truth #endthesilence