Back in January I read the extract in The Guardian from Johann Hari’s Lost Connections Book (link below). In this extract, Hari describes his experience with depression and being given SSRI’s to combat the apparent chemical imbalance in his brain. He explains why the medical professions belief that is the sole reason for depression and the faults in that way of thinking. For one thing, are you saying that everyone who has depression all have a lack of Serotonin in their brain? What about people who have experienced the loss of a loved one? They have the same symptoms as someone who is depressed but you wouldn’t label that a mental illness. That is just normal grief.
Hari discusses the other reasons for depression. He explains that as well as having basic physical needs, humans also have basic psychological needs. These are that ,’we need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we’re good at something, We need to feel we have a secure future.’ He also points out that, ‘there is growing evidence that our culture isn’t meeting those psychological needs for many – perhaps most – people.’ He believes we have, ‘become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.’
This really resonated with me. It does scare me sometimes that I take all these medications. They can’t be good for me can they. But then a recent study said they do work and I totally believe that Serotonin has a major impact to play when it comes to anxiety, depression and PMT (all things I suffer with). I know that standing out in the sun and getting more Serotonin will make me feel better. I know that eating a bar of chocolate when I am due on provides endorphins which increase the Serotonin in your brain. I also know that taking my Citalopram lifted the fog so I could work on my anxiety myself. True, I still feel down and anxious a lot of the time so they can’t be fully working. But then why do they work in the first place? Shouldn’t it be a case of either they work or they don’t? Why is it that people often have to increase their dose the longer they are on them? I was on 10mg when I first started and 10 years later, I am on 30mg. Yet I have had panic attacks recently and right now want to scream and shout due to my pmt!
To find out the answers to my questions, I am going to do some research. To start with, I am going to get Hari’s book and read that. I’ll try and post on here what I find out.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections The Gardian online, 7th January 2018.
I’m lacking faith in myself. That’s the issue. I don’t believe I can live without doing those safety seeking behaviours. I don’t believe I can cope with the anxiety and uncomfortable feelings. I don’t believe I can lose weight and get fit. I don’t believe I will ever have a baby as I don’t believe I will fall pregnant. I don’t believe I know what I’m doing at work. This is not thriving like I should be. I don’t know why I can’t get over this last bit. I guess it’s because every time I try to stop the safety seeking behaviours I feel so uncomfortable that I quite straight away or I don’t even get as far as not washing my hands etc. What is holding me back? Laziness?
It really irritates me when people say,”I’m OCD!” The sentence doesn’t even make sense like I have said before. You are basically saying, “I am Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” You can’t be a disorder! So I wrote that on a post on Facebook. Someone agreed and said they didn’t like it when people think a disability is part of someone’s personality. This is why it gets to me so much. OCD is not who I am . It isn’t a part of my personality. It is a disorder that I have. That’s all. A fellow sufferer said that it’s part of their personality as they feel so alien to themselves when they are off their meds. Well again that just proves it’s not part of your personality. If you can’t recognise yourself when you are off meds that it’s not who you are!
This sentence annoys me so much. OCD is something you have not something you are! You can’t be OCD. Would someone say the same with a broken leg, ‘you’re just a broken leg!’ What about diabetes? ‘You’re just diabetes!’ Not of course not. That doesn’t make sense. What people are actually saying is, ‘you’re just obsessive compulsive disorder!’ See, that doesn’t make sense either!
I got the below off the Facebook page End the Stigma. #endthestigma
Yesterday was a real test to see if I am thriving or not. During the day I didn’t think I was thriving but looking back on it I think I did very well.
My DH was going out with my BIL to the cinema. It was the day after my DH’s birthday and he was really looking forward to it. That morning my BIL called and told my DH that my SIL had been sick all night and had the stomach flu (which doesn’t exist as the flu is influenza and is a respiratory illness – she had a stomach bug!) and so my SIL wasn’t coming out for the meal in the evening. My DH said he therefore didn’t really want to go so that we both didn’t catch it but my BIL wanted to get out of the house so they went. I didn’t really know how to deal with this information. As an emetophobe I would have gone absolutely crazy and demanded that my DH didn’t go out and risk bringing the dreaded stomach bug into my home. But Thrive would tell me that I could be sitting next to someone on the bus who’s wife or kids had a stomach bug and not even know it. My desire for control was just going crazy. As I said I knew that I could be next to someone on the bus and not know it but in this case I knew that there was a chance my BIL could be ill or carrying the illness and so I wanted to control my risk to it. But I knew I shouldn’t give into the little desire for control birdie that sits on my shoulder.
I put my DH in a really awkward place. Because I was struggling to control my desire for control and struggling not to go back to the habitual emetophobic habits, I was just withdrawn and quiet all day. I felt the easiest thing to do was sleep because then I didn’t have to work out what to do. I really wanted my DH to make the decision himself not to go as he didn’t want to get sick either but he wanted to see the film. I told myself that I will have to tolerate feeling uncomfortable as I didn’t have control of the situation and that we would handle it if we got sick.
Then in the evening my BIL came out for the meal and felt quite sick himself but he takes some strong medication. I think I handled it quite well actually. I had a mini freakout when my DH said he was coming because again this was something that I couldn’t control. My DH kept asking me what I wanted him to do to resolve the situation but there wasn’t anything except demanding that his brother didn’t come and that would be rude and unfair. The only other option was for me to not go but I wasn’t missing out on his birthday meal. I knew it was just that birdie again telling me that I had to do something so I put a sock in its mouth and went anyway. My BIL even came to our flat briefly after and I didn’t freak out at all. Ok so I had a few anxiety moments but only for a few seconds and I told myself that I was creating them so I could stop.
I really need to be working on my black and white thinking as well. In my eyes my BIL was carrying the illness and/or would definitely get ill himself. But that isn’t the case. I need to learn to see the grey areas but I am really struggling with that part of Thrive. I just need to continue to work on it. I was about to write that I didn’t obsess about the situation as I didn’t worry that I was going to be sick but actually I did obsess. I obsessed about how to get control of the situation when I should have told myself that obsessing does not resolve the issue because it was something that couldn’t be resolved as I said above.
It is in the back of my head now though that we have 72 hours to see if either of us gets sick. I shouldn’t really be having those sorts of thoughts I don’t think but then I am not sitting here worrying about it or avoiding food etc. That is what I would have done before. I would have started eating safe food and washing more to make sure I didn’t get ill. Maybe it is normal to think in your head about those 72 hours? Or am I just kidding myself? Us emetophobes loves a statistic!
So I may not be thriving 100% yet but I definitely have the framework of the tools in place to handle these situations and I am sure that if I devote my time to doing the exercises etc. more, I will be thriving 100%.
I saw the advert for this Channel 4 programme a week ago and didn’t really think anything bad about it and decided to watch it. Last night it was on and I was extremely disappointed in it. It portrayed people with heath anxiety or HA (the term hypochondriac is a bit derogatory I believe) as a burden on the health care system and basically just a nuisance. Rather than highlighting the condition to people who don’t suffer it, it just led to people bashing them and calling them ‘selfish’ on social media. Dr Christian said that these people ‘visit the GP when they are well’. How dare he say that. They aren’t well, they just aren’t physically ill. People will mental illness should be treated exactly the same as someone with a physical illness.
It was also to my surprise that there was an Emetophobia sufferer on there. Ok so I can see how they said Emetophobia was similar to HA in that it is a fear of getting ill – just a specific illness, but other than that, it isn’t the same at all. If anything it is more like OCD than HA. The Emetophobia sufferer never went to the doctor’s even if she was ill due to a fear of catching something that would make her sick. She had lots of rituals to stop herself catching something (like using gloves to open packing. (I still take something from the back of the shelf to make sure it hasn’t been touched)) and clearly spent her life doing these compulsions to stop the obsessions. I know this for a fact as that is what I was like. I was diagnosed with OCD before the word even recognised Emetophobia.
I had to stop looking at social media as the comments I saw were awful. One suggested that the Emetophobic lady should see what the factories were like that her food came when it was shown that she used gloves to open the packaging. What is that meant to achieve? Do they think that it is a laughing matter and that seeing that will make her better? I guess they think she was just being stupid. In an age where mental health charities are working hard to get rid of the stigma of mental illness, this belittling programme just put the fight back a few years by making it something to be laughed at – even the music that accompanied the show had a comical tone to it.
Someone on No More Panic asked why someone with OCD (or Emetophobia as she actually had) would be on the same programme as those with HA. That is a very good question. That would be like putting on a programme all about recovering from heart attacks and then adding a person who suffers with acid reflux disease. They both cause chest pain but they aren’t the same thing! This was just bad researching by the programme makers. They read that Emetophobia was about a fear of vomiting and put two and two together and assumed it was the same as HA.
Speaking of acid reflux, that was another small part of the show that really got to me. They suggested that people also go to the GP to ‘waste’ their time on simple things like acid reflux and constipation and that they should just see the pharmacist about that. I have suffered with gastroesophagus reflux disease (GORD) for 10 years and I also have IBS. These are another two disorders that have charities etc. trying to get people to understand better and to take away the stigma that it is ‘all in their head’ but this programme once again took away the work that they have been doing. Of course you should go to the GP with acid reflux or constipation! They could be a sign of something serious going on from a hiatus hernia, stomach ulcer, bowel obstruction to cancer.
This programme by channel 4, along with other similar titles like Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, just adds to the stigma that people like me have to face each day. It is programmes like this that make me want to fight to get these real illnesses taken seriously and for sufferers to be given the same respect as those with physical illnesses.