Recovery Is Not Linear: My Recovery From Mental Illness
I feel like I’ve been unwell an exceedingly long time now and have tried many different services in an effort to try and find the right medication to settle me enough to attempt therapy. The days and nights are both so long and living day to day is out of the question, I live hour to hour at best; occasionally minute to minute.
So when you’ve made a small improvement and then you slip back, that crash is almost unbearable. So to hear ‘recovery is not linear’, although I agree this is true, it’s devastating to a once strong person who was determined to grow up and to need no one to feel the brain rewind. This was all new and the biggest deterioration of my mental health I had ever known.
How It Started
In February 2018, a visit from my parents had ended, and I began to experience flashbacks, nightmares and ridiculous levels of anxiety, this was all new and the biggest deterioration to my mental health I had ever known. I have had some problems since childhood with the occasional slide into depression but had always managed to disguise this, with work/study, going out, staying busy.
No need for intervention or commotion. I continued to be an outwardly smiley and high functioning individual with secret mild anxiety and intervals of silent low mood.
At this time, I didn’t know what to do with myself, I had just started a new job as a minor injuries practitioner. I was really struggling with the pressure of that and my internal self-destructive polylogue among the new set of confusing symptoms that kept dragging me back to the violence and abuse I witnessed and experienced at the hands of my dad.
I was determined not to let this man destroy my life again so stayed as defiant as I could, refused to seek help and isolated. I guess this would be the first backwards slide prior to diagnosis.
ICU and Self-Help
Eventually, the flashbacks, nightmares, cold sweats, hyper-vigilance frightened me enough to see the GP and request a diagnosis which was PTSD and some help which was the community mental health team. I was also prescribed an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety drug. At this point, this doctor was the only person who knew anything about my struggles.
One week later I took all the medication I had, a month’s supply of pain relief for my injured shoulder and a tonne of benzodiazepines I bought off the internet. Certain this would do the job, I was surprised and a little annoyed to wake up in ICU three days later. A further step backwards, admittedly I was not at this point receiving treatment.
When I was eventually released from the hospital, I had my sister to keep me company and safe for a few days until I was able to function better. I narrowly avoided making a promise it wouldn’t happen again because I wasn’t sure I could keep it.
As the days went on, I made some small improvements from my time in ICU, built up a little strength and eventually would drive to Leeds to stay with family members who were a little confused due to my secrecy.
At this point, the home treatment team was involved in attempting to keep me safe, so I left my grandparents to go home to meet with this team and try and plan for future treatment. This didn’t really seem to go anywhere at all, so I requested to move to the less acute service in the community.
I waited four months to see a doctor and would meet a psychiatric occupation therapist once a month. Needless to say, this didn’t seem to help either. So I took it upon myself to find things to help my recovery, such as reading as much as I was able about PTSD, symptoms, management, etc. and keep myself busy.
The following activities helped me:
- mountain biking
- attending a local gym
- practicing yoga at home
- playing my piano and guitar as often as I could
All of these activities seemed to have a good effect, and I could feel myself getting stronger. The only problem was I was always alone, for safety, I isolated.
Returning to Work
As the weeks rolled by I returned to work, which was a living nightmare, to be honest, but I was unwavering in my attempt to be good at my job and therefore have something to be proud of and keep waking up for. I had good days and bad days but how the bad days stung, I cannot explain with words.
I was sent home on a couple of occasions due to the high anxiety I was experiencing at work and how physically unwell I looked when this was the case. They were lovely and supportive mostly but I still made the decision to leave 11 months after starting.
Then I really went backwards, I barely moved, I ate even less than before, self-medicated as at that point I was not taking any medication and continued to withdraw from society. I ignored my phone and barely opened my door when someone knocked. The feeling that my suicide was inevitable became my only thought.
The next month, as low as I’d ever been I traveled to Italy for a family trip which was actually quite fun because my cousin was there and we have very similar interests and like a drink and smoke. Shortly after this, I drove to Leeds to stay with my grandparents before I traveled to Europe with my sister, another highlight in a very challenging month.
Up to this point, I had been working in different emergency departments as a staff nurse via an agency, despite the difficulties I was experiencing. Upon returning from our trip, I fell backwards yet again; high anxiety took my ability to drive, think, eat, talk, make any decisions and was a total nightmare. I had been like this before just not around my grandparents. Now I was someone else’s problem.
Next, I was to see their GP, who contacted the crisis team immediately, and I was under the intensive care service, to avoid hospital admission. I saw a doctor the next day who prescribed a collection of drugs for severe depression, anxiety and sleep. These were all increased, some added, over the next two months at which point I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for more intensive treatment and to maintain my safety. Yet again, I felt further back than I’d ever been in my life. Initially, an informal patient quickly sectioned to make the restriction they placed on me legally.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.