Strange Anniversary - Mental Health

I was not sure whether to share this one or not and if I did how much detail and how personal I would get with this. So this is a strange anniversary and one that has got me thinking. It is roughly two years since I got help for the third time for my mental health. 

Some of you might have noticed (or not noticed) that I am not as active playing out and about over the past few years. Weirdly when I am playing music I feel perfectly fine but that the bits before and after can sometimes be a little too much for me so sometimes I tend to sneak off into a corner and keep my head down. Other days I will ask far too many questions and annoy the hell out of you! I have a couple of songs written about this time that I would love to use to raise money for people who desperately need funding to keep up the services they provide. Without these services there is a strong possibility I would not be here to write this today. If you have any ideas please get in touch and we can see what we can do. 

This blog isn’t a music-y based one so bear with me. I will put a song at the end for those that make it through this one. It is not an easy one. 

So time for some context The first time I went for treatment for mental health I believe I was 12 or 13. Honestly cannot remember too much about it now other than missing History class and grabbing a sausage roll on the way back to school. I had my ups and downs over the years but  I thought it was just how my head works and there was nothing more that I could do with. It would pass. 

These up and downs were manageable for a long time until I started working in a more stressful job. Now, don’t get me wrong my old place and managers were incredibly accommodating and understanding. Over time it took its toll on my mental health. So now we go back for round two of therapy. But, truth is, the counselling sessions took place during work hours, so I always had half a mind focused on that. So that one didn’t work out so well. 

So things got worse over time and I was not doing anything to help it. As far as I was concerned I had two choices. Try to cope with it as best as I could or give up. Well, the second time around I was leaning closer towards the latter. My wife talked me into going back to the GP again and I went back for her. I knew I was struggling but in my mind this was now normal. 

I did go and broke down when I tried to explain everything as best I could. Luckily there are people a hell of a lot smarter than me who recognised what was clinical depression and anxiety. We talked about the causes and we talked about suicide and if I had any plans. This was very difficult to talk about because it was a very private thing to go into the details. The doctor referred me to what is known as the Crisis Unit and I would have an appointment with the Mental Health Unit at Broadgreen Hospital. The doctor then told me that this is something that with medication and therapy would take 3-6 months before I would start to feel ok and recommended signing me off for an initial 6 weeks with 2 appointments a week until the therapy sessions started. I was still of the belief that this still was not a big deal, even though we were talking about how I was suicidal. I went with being signed off for 1 week. I could not comprehend that this was something that could be helped if I worked at it. 

Now I am sure if you think of someone who is suicidal and planning to kill themselves you imagine someone who is an emotional wreck but for me it was not like that. There are three times that it went beyond a thought, (I think we all get that way from time to time) beyond a plan (things are getting a bit risky) to the point of being ready to go. On those three occasions I remember feeling, for the first time in what felt like forever, completely relaxed and more than a little relieved that it would soon be over. On the third time I phoned the Crisis Unit and they set me up with an appointment within the hour. If I did not attend, they would phone me and if I did not answer the police would be sent to my address. 

At the appointment they recommended I speak to my wife and see if she would be able to meet me to ensure I would keep myself safe. Now for an insight into my thought process at the time. They had to convince me to phone her because I did not want to be an inconvenience and worry her. I remember the mental health worker looking at me like I was an idiot. “Gary, which would be more of an inconvenience, leaving work to meet you or you being dead?” Well even I couldn’t argue with that logic. 

The medication part of this took me a long time to get used to. No matter how many times those people who are a lot more educated in mental health would ask if I broke bones would I take a painkiller. Accordingly it’s the same thing. As logical as that sounds I still struggle with this. To convince me I started off on the tiniest of doses. Well that didn’t work so it kept rising. The side effects are hell for a few days, both physically and mentally and to this day I do not know if they work. 

I know my mental health is better now than it was but is that due to the changes I have made in my life? I have left a very stressful job and take better care of my mental health and am a lot more aware of mood changes and getting myself out of stressful mindsets. It is probably a combination of both. 

A couple of things I have learnt. 

  • This idea that there are good days and bad days. A day seems like a far too long period of time. As I am sure anyone know knows me can attest to it changes a hell of a lot quicker than that. I can be having a great laugh and out of the blue it is gone and I do not want to be there anymore. It feels instantaneous. 
  • There are not always triggers so it is better to not ask what “triggered” it. Sometimes the anxiety picks up and there are no obvious reasons why. My head can be completely blank and my heart rate will just go batshit for no apparent reason. Same thing with depression. 
  • More weird than that is I have caught myself in a good mood and my mind has kicked in with “oh crap, I am doing ok, what have I forgotten?” I think this is down to feeling low and anxious for so long that it became my default position. 
  • It is ok to be down, just don’t let it take over your every perception 
  • You have to look after your mental health. It is not going to magically get better. You have to work at it. 
  • If you need it, get help! It is what these services are for 

So there you have it. That was the beginning of a long road that continues over 2 years later. I had a health worker visit me at home every friday for about 2-3 months. I had counselling for what felt like most of the year at 3pm once a week. I had a couple of medication specialist appointments. I still see my GP every 4-6 weeks and have a lot of phone numbers saved on my phone. Luckily I have not needed to ring it since that story earlier. 

Thanks to everyone in the NHS who has helped me over the past two years and to friends and family who have put up with me and continue to support me. Thanks to Charlene for keeping me focused and for how she continues to keep me on the middle of the road even when I steer off into the ditches from time to time. Most importantly thanks to everyone who supported and helped Charlene when I was not able to. 

Some contact information for anyone that might need it. 

Talk Liverpool:
www.talkliverpool.nhs.uk 
0151 228 2300 
talkliverpool@merseycare.nhs.uk 

Calm 
www.calmzone.net 
0800 58 58 58 (5pm to Midnight) 

The Samaritans 
www.samaritans.org 
116 123 
jo@samaritans.org 

In NI - Mind Your Mate and Yourself 
http://www.mindingyourhead.info/service/mymy-mind-your-mate-and-yourself 
028 4372 7549 
mindyourmateandyourself@gmail.com

13 comments

  • Roisin O Hare

    Roisin O Hare Dublin

    A very honest and moving story of your journey through your depression/anxiety and recovery. I wish you the best of luck and health in the future. x

    A very honest and moving story of your journey through your depression/anxiety and recovery. I wish you the best of luck and health in the future. x

  • Susan

    Susan Newry

    You are a star for having the courage to write about your journey,it will give others hope who may be feeling in despair at the moment.

    You are a star for having the courage to write about your journey,it will give others hope who may be feeling in despair at the moment.

  • Dee

    Dee Plymouth

    You are even more courageous than you will ever know by writing this. I hope that your healing continues and joy comes to you very soon and that you realise you deserve to be happy and can be happy for longer and longer periods. Your words comfort me and I will stay stronger because of them. You are a great person and friend. Love from Newman xxxxx

    You are even more courageous than you will ever know by writing this. I hope that your healing continues and joy comes to you very soon and that you realise you deserve to be happy and can be happy for longer and longer periods. Your words comfort me and I will stay stronger because of them. You are a great person and friend. Love from Newman xxxxx

  • Martina

    Martina Banbridge

    So proud of you Gary for writing so openly and honestly about what you have been through.....and so glad youve talked to me about some of it during that time...its been tough for both of you, and hopefully the worst of it is over. I will encourage many others to read and share....if it only helps one other person to get help, u will have done a tremendous job in speaking out. And unfortunately i know of a few here going through the same at this time. Love u both to bits, always here for you both. Fantastic son-in-law, fantastic daughter xox

    So proud of you Gary for writing so openly and honestly about what you have been through.....and so glad youve talked to me about some of it during that time...its been tough for both of you, and hopefully the worst of it is over. I will encourage many others to read and share....if it only helps one other person to get help, u will have done a tremendous job in speaking out. And unfortunately i know of a few here going through the same at this time. Love u both to bits, always here for you both. Fantastic son-in-law, fantastic daughter xox

  • Julie

    Julie London

    Truly amazing story so raw and honest and I'm so glad you are here to share it. Beautifully written and fantastic to advise about the services available. Thanks for sharing x

    Truly amazing story so raw and honest and I'm so glad you are here to share it. Beautifully written and fantastic to advise about the services available. Thanks for sharing x

  • Sean

    Sean Islandmoyle

    Gary i dont know what to say l knew u had problems but never thought that it was as bad as that. If your story inspires at least one person to go for help then your journey will have been worth it you are nearly as brave as me your old man lol

    Gary i dont know what to say l knew u had problems but never thought that it was as bad as that. If your story inspires at least one person to go for help then your journey will have been worth it you are nearly as brave as me your old man lol

  • Amanda

    Amanda Islandmoyle

    Well done Gary!! That I'm sure took alot of courage! As many people know I struggle myself and can relate to alot of this story but never could I talk so openly.. Even if your story just helps one person it's a bonus

    Well done Gary!! That I'm sure took alot of courage! As many people know I struggle myself and can relate to alot of this story but never could I talk so openly.. Even if your story just helps one person it's a bonus

  • Emma

    Emma Cork

    Thank you so much for sharing Gary, so thought provoking and viseral. It takes a special person to write something that so many people can relate to and understand in some way.

    Thank you so much for sharing Gary, so thought provoking and viseral. It takes a special person to write something that so many people can relate to and understand in some way.

  • Kerrie

    Kerrie Peterborough

    So astonished at your bravery and openess gary!!! It really just proves that u may see a smiley and seemingly happy go lucky person but behind all that there is a shit load of pretend!! I havent thot as far as u but I do have alot of anxiety and panic attacks for no reason (so I think) and struggle with feeling alone and no one there to get me out of it. U r an inspiration and im so glad to have known u while weve grown up!! :)

    So astonished at your bravery and openess gary!!! It really just proves that u may see a smiley and seemingly happy go lucky person but behind all that there is a shit load of pretend!! I havent thot as far as u but I do have alot of anxiety and panic attacks for no reason (so I think) and struggle with feeling alone and no one there to get me out of it. U r an inspiration and im so glad to have known u while weve grown up!! smile

  • Pattie

    Pattie DECHOMET

    Gary...you little star...this was a very brave thing to write about....again as you know I have been on medication since I was 18 so that's about 2 years now....sorry 30 years...I attended everything I possibly could to "get better".. I don't think you really ever manage that but you learn to live in a different way and I give you enormous credit for speaking out...basically at the end of the day the experiences you have had will make you a stroger person and a wonderful Dad...and your fabulous wife Charlene is a total angel for all her help and support...keep going Gary you little shit face xxx

    Gary...you little star...this was a very brave thing to write about....again as you know I have been on medication since I was 18 so that's about 2 years now....sorry 30 years...I attended everything I possibly could to "get better".. I don't think you really ever manage that but you learn to live in a different way and I give you enormous credit for speaking out...basically at the end of the day the experiences you have had will make you a stroger person and a wonderful Dad...and your fabulous wife Charlene is a total angel for all her help and support...keep going Gary you little shit face xxx

  • Caroline McClean

    Caroline McClean Kilcoo

    It is very brave thing to do .To speak of your mental health Fair play to you . I wish you all the best for the future

    It is very brave thing to do .To speak of your mental health Fair play to you . I wish you all the best for the future

  • Dean

    Dean

    I'd say this could help a lot who have not yet spoke out, to seek help from what they just read. Well done

    I'd say this could help a lot who have not yet spoke out, to seek help from what they just read. Well done

  • Gary Maginnis

    Gary Maginnis Liverpool

    Thanks everyone for all your feedback. As far as I can tell this is a health issue that touches everyone in some form or fashion. Hopefully writing this helps someone and just talking about it can take away the stigma. It is more important to speak up than to bottle up. Feel free to share this to anyone you think it might help

    Thanks everyone for all your feedback. As far as I can tell this is a health issue that touches everyone in some form or fashion. Hopefully writing this helps someone and just talking about it can take away the stigma. It is more important to speak up than to bottle up. Feel free to share this to anyone you think it might help

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