How it all started
I first became ill around 2006 when I was at university. Like lots of people developing mental health problems for the first time, I didn't really understand what was happening to me. Instead of acknowledging how I was feeling I tried to bury everything, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol almost every day and doing anything I could to stop myself thinking about how I was feeling.
Eventually, things came to a head and I was seen by a doctor who prescribed anti-depressants and told me to try and lead a healthier lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, for a stubborn and headstrong teenager, I thought he was wrong, completely ignored all his advice and continued just as before.
I remember believing that no-one could possibly understand how I was feeling, that I must be the only person in the world who had ever experienced such intense emotions.
I resolved to deal with the situation myself, alone. Somehow, I got through the next couple of years, eventually graduating from University before moving to London. My mental health continued to roller-coaster for the next ten years but I eventually accepted help, started my medication again and began the process of embarking on a healthier lifestyle.
I thought, finally, everything was going to be fine. I'd eventually listened to what people had been telling me for years and stopped self-medicating, started talking and accepted what had happened wasn't my fault. Then, everything went wrong. I was having a really difficult time at work, dealing with the break-up of a significant relationship, struggling with my sexuality and began to self-harm.
Things went from bad to worse and eventually I was signed off work.
I was referred to a psychiatrist who suggested a number of diagnoses, and a number of different medications. Together we decided on a mood-stabiliser and I left, clutching my prescription and hoping for the best.
Two weeks passed and nothing changed so I headed back to my Psychiatrist’s office and she suggested another medication. This one didn't seem to work either, nor did the next two that I tried. Eventually I went back for an emergency appointment after a particularly awful weekend, this time with my mum. She helped me explain to my Psychiatrist that if we didn't find something that worked soon, I faced the very real prospect of losing my job – which by then felt like the only thing holding my life together. My psychiatrist talked to me about how I was feeling, asked my mum to leave us to it, and suggested I speak to the crisis team. Determined to avoid this at all costs, I agreed to try anti-psychotics. She told me she believed they'd work, but that I should be prepared for some side-effects.
I don't remember much about my first couple of weeks on the new drugs.
I know I spent most of the time either asleep or eating, or thinking about being asleep or eating. I found everything a huge effort – I could hardly get through a chapter of a book or an episode of Gossip Girl without accidentally falling asleep – but eventually I began to feel awake enough to see a friend for lunch or take the dogs for a walk.
My parents helped a lot, even seemingly little things like making me a huge mug of coffee in the morning to help wake me up made a really big difference.
Slowly, I began to feel better.
I could begin to talk about how I felt without being emotionally overwhelmed. I could go to Pilates without worrying that I'd start to cry in the middle of the class – I began to feel more relaxed and less emotionally charged all the time. I was indescribably hungry and always tired, but more like myself again. Slowly, everything got better.
I've been back at work full-time for over six months now – and with support from a new boss I'm doing more than ever. I've moved to a new flat in London with my partner, started enjoying my hobbies again and even got back to exercising (as long as there's cake afterwards).
Anti-psychotics probably aren't for everyone – but without them I don't know where I'd be. I don't even know if I'd be here. I'm hoping to be able to taper them off soon, but if it doesn't work and I need to stay on them, that's ok too – after all, I find it much easier to be relaxed about things these days...
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