It’s such a taboo subject, mental health, and it really doesn’t need to be. Recently some really high profile people, such as the royals, are speaking out a lot more making it more socially acceptable for mental health to be discussed openly.

I experienced a traumatic birth, which was followed by a traumatic stay in hospital, which was followed by a traumatic event of having to resuscitate my son at home, which has been followed by many more stressful and anxious urgent visits to the hospital. Is it really a surprise that I got a diagnosis of anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? I don’t think it is.

Talking openly

I have written openly about my struggles in other blogs, that you can find on here, as well as other peoples blogs that I have featured on. Not once have I experienced anyone looking at me differently or treating me in a way that has made me feel they find my mental health is a concern to them.

Woman writing. Photography credit: Ana Tavares
Woman writing. Photography credit: Ana Tavares

World mental health day is all about raising awareness of mental health issues that are very present in today’s society but not necessarily very visible. I initially went to my GP where we discussed what symptoms I was experiencing and then we talked about what options I had.

The hardest part wasn’t realising I needed help, the hardest part was actually talking to effectively a stranger. My local doctors surgery doesn’t allocate one doctor per patient so you see a different doctor each visit. Once I told my GP and I wasn’t laughed out the office or questioned about my ability to be a mother (there is a standard question asked to everyone about if they feel they would be likely to hurt themselves or anyone else). It was a relief that I was taken seriously and quickly got the help I needed.

CBT

I chose to go to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which I found really helpful and the tools useful. My therapist was amazing and I can’t thank her enough. The sessions were hard work and I would leave them exhausted and emotional. I learnt techniques to help me in moments of distress. I now cope much better and I am aware of what triggers me.

Doctor caring for patient. Photography credit: Arvin Chingcuangco
Doctor caring for patient. Photography credit: Arvin Chingcuangco

My work place also recognised my conditions and implemented a phased return to work plan, an occupational health review and something called a carer’s passport which is a document explaining my son’s health conditions and the impact his health has on my mental health and that I may need to leave work urgently. I know this is not always the case with employers and that I’m lucky.

Employers do have certain obligations, however, I didn’t feel I was burdening them. For the most part I felt supported and understood. I will admit I have been very lucky to have great management and not all of them where I work are as supportive on an individual level.

It’s good to talk

Anybody struggling with mental health should speak to a doctor and discuss the options available to them, these days there are lots of options. Speak to family and friends they may be able to help or just having them know may be a relief. In my case it was important that my family knew what to do if my son needed to be resuscitated again and that an emergency plan was discussed if he ever needed to urgently be taken to the hospital. I have a hospital bag always packed for him ready to go as well.

I have a contact list for various health professionals so I can contact if I am worried about my son. The list has specialist doctors, to the children’s ward at the hospital, the local GP and his community nurse. All this helps me to gain an element of control in an emergency.

Other options

If you are struggling and not ready to talk to family/friends or go to a medical professional yet then think about contacting the numerous charities that offer phone support. Charities like the Samaritans have dedicated phone lines that are happy to listen. Bliss is a charity specifically for premature babies and their families.

If you have a family or friend who you have noticed isn’t quite themselves could you help support them by listening and not being judgemental? Maybe help them draft an plan that would help relieve some anxieties? Or even send a simple text of support to let them know you are there and thinking of them? A simple cup of tea can mean the world too.

Me with a cup of tea. Photography credit: Vivienne Guy
Me with a cup of tea. Photography credit: Vivienne Guy