It feels like there's a mild fever dream playing out in my mind whenever I'm trying to think or focus. It's noisy but at the same time silent: only I can sense it as it scrabbles around in my brain. And all the while I'm trying to hold down a stressful job and be a good parent and husband.
I was hoping anti-depressants would help. In the past, I've preferred to push on on my own: managing to carry on working and inflicting my ill mind on friends (not that I talked to them about being ill) until, eventually, coming out the other side without having to think about when it might be safe to come off the tablets. This time I have a little boy at home whose future could be affected by having a less able parent, and unlike during previous episodes, work is more difficult to manage when I'm unwell (and taking time off would just give me something else to worry about). Unfortunately, the side-effects were making everything much harder. You know in films where someone is possessed or inhabited by a demon or they have a horrible illness inflicted upon them by a curse or something and the only cure is something that looks even more painful? Well Sertraline was a bit like that for me. I had sickness, diarrhoea, blinding headaches, dizziness and when I read there were more side-effects to come and that some could last for weeks, with some potentially lasting until after I'd stopped taking them I knew I couldn't continue. It's hard enough trying to get through the day while doubting your ability to do your job (due to life-long and deeply-embedded self confidence issues) and being unable to focus on a task for long enough to complete it (I'm procrastinating right now) without feeling physically dreadful as well.
For some people, the symptoms won't be so bad and for others, it might feel worth it. I've come to realise that although I'd dearly like to erase parts of my history so that the way I acted in the worst periods and certain things I said or did could be forgotten by anyone who witnessed me in those phases, I have managed to get through without medication in the past. And wiping history is obviously impossible (I am so lucky that social media didn't exist when I was a teenager and in my early 20s - I would probably have had to disappear to rid myself of the shame of it all).
I feel a crushing anguish when I think about that little boy suffering for so long and I want to go back in time and talk to him about it and get my parents to see that I needed help. My parents had a lot going on: their own health concerns and big financial difficulties being the two major themes. But I would like to think if my son was mentally unwell that my wife and I would both be aware and would make sure he saw an appropriate professional.
Today at the train station I heard some high school or possibly sixth form girls talking about someone at school: "...someone took her favourite pencil and she started crying!" I would like to have heard at least one of them say "Why would she be upset about that; maybe she's not well?" So finally, I have arrived at my point: children need to be taught more about mental health from an early age. I'm not expecting children and adolescents, who have enough on their minds, to suddenly become junior psychologists overnight but some awareness would go a long way. If my teachers had a better understanding of possible childhood mental health issues, they may have raised concerns with my parents. I hope that these days, with everything else they are expected to do in terms of safeguarding, teachers might be more likely to spot potentially unwell children and help to ensure that the matter is being dealt with.
There is a huge amount of money spent and lost in our economy to mental health issues. A little money spent on research, better funding for mental health services so that people are seen earlier and treated earlier would save a lot in the long run.