Since first going to see a doctor about my low mood and anxiety about 5 years ago and due to having lived in various corners of the UK, I have been in and out of various NHS trusts’ psychological services. And I’m sad to say that the support offered is very much a postcode lottery like much of the healthcare system in this country. Waiting lists for mental health services are notoriously high and quite how they prioritise cases I don’t know. My first foray into counselling followed a wait of 6 months and another in excess of 8 months, and both were at what I felt to be critical moments in my mental health journey.
The therapies on offer have been quite varied too; some Trusts offering a wide range of options, some offering just one. Anyone who lives with a mental health condition will tell you that it’s very much a process of trial and error working out what helps and what doesn’t. The one size fits all approach that I’ve experienced on numerous occasions leaving me in far worse a place than when I started. To not really be given a choice or to be assigned a practitioner that you don’t feel comfortable with leaves you feeling more hopeless, and in my case, leads you to discharging yourself from a service and retreating, and never really figuring out what the root of the sadness is.
I have routinely felt that pouring my heart out to people and trying to give them a glimpse into my head has been pointless. Every doctor/therapist diagnosing me depressed with an anxiety disorder. And if someone tells you something enough times you eventually start believing it despite the odd reservation. And that’s what I did. I believed it; I take antidepressants because I am depressed.
Or am I?
I’ve never once questioned whether it could be something else. Which granted, in hindsight is very silly.
As I moved to London six months ago, I had to find a new GP. A very daunting prospect I have to say. I found one and they’re fine. There’s the usual struggle to get an appointment this side of Christmas but they’re efficient and friendly. On my last visit they handed me a leaflet about Southwark Psychological Services. I’d seen the leaflet a million times from other GPs and I didn’t have high hopes but I decided to refer myself and see what happened having found London life quite emotionally draining.
From the first phone call I felt hopeful. There were options. There was no standard treatment; they would assess my needs and tailor my treatment accordingly. Something I hadn’t had before. Even the questions I was asked felt more relatable, it felt like they were listening. Despite my positive outlook I did however know that there was obviously going to be a substantial waiting list so my happiness was somewhat short lived.
6 weeks later I was given my first face-to-face appointment at a convenient time and venue. I instantly felt comfortable with my therapist and felt that she really listened and didn’t dismiss one piece of information. A notion that was only strengthened by my second appointment last week. An appointment that will now be known as revolutionary.
She said she had been thinking about what I had said and been over my application forms during the week and felt the diagnosis wasn’t necessarily accurate. She believed I was presenting symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
And as soon as she said it I felt this wave of relief come over me. It felt like someone had found the missing piece of the puzzle; a piece that I’ve been trying to describe to so many people for so long. There’s been this unexplainable pain/heaviness in my heart for years, a feeling that really does cause me great distress and trauma and it finally feels like someone is going to help me figure it out.
I’m not expecting a cure, I’m not expecting to feel “normal” but there’s a real hope in me that I might, just might, learn how to live in the present and not be tortured by the past or what-ifs of the future.
Watch this space.