R U OK? Day and #MentalAs

Background: I was diagnosed with major depression and generalised anxiety disorder in June 2010.

I don’t actually remember exactly how I was on R U OK? Day this year (Thursday 10th September). I had a psych visit that afternoon, where we discussed changing from the anti-depressant I had been on (Valdoxan) to another one (Brintellix). I went home that night with a starter pack of Brintellix. So I guess my mood was fairly low, because we were trying the Brintellix to see if it lifted my mood better than the Valdoxan.

The following Friday (18th September), I was admitted to a private hospital as a voluntary patient. I just got out today.

(Warning: content under Read More link may be triggering/upsetting to some people.)

I’d started having deeply negative thoughts over the weekend. By Tuesday 22nd I was afraid of my own brain and didn’t want Danny to leave the house in case I did something stupid.

I know it sounds kind of funny, the fact that one of the side-effects for a lot of anti-depressants is that they may cause suicidal thoughts. That’s kind of the opposite of what they’re meant to do, right?

So on Tuesday I called my psychiatrist, went off the Brintellix, and started the ball rolling on getting me admitted. It didn’t happen until Friday because they didn’t have a bed available, but when they did I went in. It was my first time in a shared room; my two prior admissions (2010 and 2013) had been in single rooms. I wasn’t in a position to complain, though.

I think the only thing that had changed since 2013 was the location of the smokers’ courtyard. A lot of the nurses were the same. The lady who came in for crafts was the same (and remembered me, yikes). The food was possibly exactly the same and had just been sitting under the bain-marie for two and a half years.

Over the next week and a bit I got my meds adjusted, read a whole lot of Black Jewels books (which was actually really good since during my other admissions I hadn’t had the ability to focus for that long), and watched a ridiculous amount of TV. The Chase UK, two episodes of Frasier, The Chase Australia, Family Feud (mostly because by then Mum would be in to visit and we’d laugh at the dopey answers people gave), Spicks and Specks and Total Wipeout UK. And I saw a lot of ads for #MentalAs, the ABC’s awareness and fundraising initiative for the Society for Mental Health Research.

(Spicks and Specks has been a constant in my hospital visits. In 2010 some of the episodes were even new.)

Some mornings were harder than others. I’d still be lethargic from my meds, despite taking them early the night before. But I had to get up, because I had morning meds to take and I had to eat breakfast and I knew that if I didn’t it would all get written down as a symptom of something. It was a little bit spooky; I wouldn’t see my contact nurse except in passing, but they’d ask me why I’d skipped lunch and whether I’d gotten anything out of the discussion group I’d been to.

I had to make the decision on Thursday about when I would go home, because my psych was going to be away over the weekend. I picked today (Sunday) because I was pretty sure that Danny and my parents would all be home and I’d have plenty of support. Well, Danny turned out to be working, but I came home anyway, spent the afternoon watching Big Bang Theory with my Mum, and then came home to try to write this.

The first time I went into hospital, in 2010, it was a scary thing. The second time, in 2013, it was a little less scary because I’d gotten through it before and I could get through it again. This time I was determined that it wouldn’t be any more than two weeks (both previous admissions were for a month), because I wasn’t as far gone as I was the other two times. This time around I didn’t cry, or ask my family to stay until visiting hours were over, and only did a little bit of staring at the walls.

Each time is different, even for the same person, and the things that one person experiences with their depression might not be the same things that someone else does.

R U OK? Day and #MentalAs are two good steps on the path to normalising mental health issues in society. I’m not always super blunt about how I’m actually feeling on R U OK? Day except with some people who know better than others the crap that my brain puts me through. But I also don’t hide that I have depression and anxiety. I think it’s vital for people like me, who’re just pretty average people, to be open about it if they feel safe talking about it. Because if I can talk about it, I might help someone else who wouldn’t otherwise think that hey, maybe they should go see a doctor about how they’re feeling.


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2 Responses to R U OK? Day and #MentalAs

  1. Stephen

    Such a brave article. I am honoured to be publishing you.

  2. Pingback: Acceptance: ‘Tea Party’ in Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press) | lauren mitchell dot net

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