For some months, maybe more, my mental health had been declining very rapidly, though I did not notice it at the time, I believed the “Happy Face” mask that I religiously put on every morning for the rest of the World. I had been putting that face on for so many years; it became part of my daily routine, just like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. However, each day I would go to work and take on other people’s problems without even realising that I had my own problems.
Just before Christmas I had finally managed to give up anti-depressants, I had been taking them for ages, from my teens in fact, and I am quite ancient now. I did at least have the sense to do it by gradual dose reduction, although I did not tell my Doctor what I had done until last week, three months after I had taken my last anti-depressant. During the decline I put my feelings and sometimes-extreme fatigue down to the short days of winter, not going out enough, going out too much, reading too much, not getting enough sleep, sleeping too much, in fact anything to avoid the truth.
The truth being that I was slap bang in the middle of another episode of depression brought about by overworking, taking on too much, not delegating, a host of other things, and unhealthiest of all – not leaving the Advocacy Partners problems in the filing cabinet when I left work. On top of all that, there was the tension caused by office politics. Of course, all of this is said with the wisdom of hindsight. I just could not see it at the time, others may well have done, but I did not.
Then on Wednesday the 16th of January, I had what turns out to have been a very lucky, possibly lifesaving, accident; I had a fall and fractured my femur and hip, those of you who have read my two previous blogs will already know this. You may well be asking how an accident, which immobilised me and put me in hospital for a month can be considered as lucky. The answer is that it put a very large full stop on my working life. Understandably, at the time I did not consider myself lucky all I could think about were the appointments I would miss, the meetings I could not attend and my Advocacy Partners, I still could not turn my brain off. For the first couple of weeks I was still wearing my mask, except on the day of my operation where I was on an anaesthetic high, and did not have a care in the World.
Gradually things eased, and I realised that I would not be going back to work in the near future, and that I had to concentrate on getting better, meaning recuperating from the results of my fracture, not my poor mental health. My recuperation for that came as a side effect of my physical recuperation. I was and am concentrating so hard on that, that I pushed all thoughts of work from my mind. Effectively giving my mind something else to think about, thereby giving it a much-needed rest.
I then transferred to Dene Barton Hospital where the physiotherapy was much more intense, the Physiotherapist was much keener than the one in my first hospital. On top of that, I now had an Occupational Therapist; this was the real turning point in both my physical and mental health recovery. They both radiated enthusiasm, which was contagious; they both really wanted and want me to get better. Two weeks later, I was discharged; even though I was now at home the therapy continues by way of home visits. I even get someone to help me with the transition from crutches to sticks; you could say that she takes me for ‘walkies’.
All the time that I had been concentrating on regaining the use of my leg; I was unknowingly improving my mental health; it was not until last Wednesday that I finally realised that I had had depression: an Advocacy Partner rang me to ask for help. She was desperate; I had known her for almost a year and knew both her and her case well, I also knew that she would never have called me unless she had no other choice. Therefore, I agreed that I would try to help her. I then called the agency, which was causing the problem, and one other agency that may have been able to help. As I was talking to these agencies I could feel my brain beginning to ‘knot-up’, I could also feel the tension building throughout my body. These were feelings and sensations that I had not felt since before the accident. Before the accident I had grown to accept those feelings as normal, whereas now I know that they are not normal, they are a symptom or warning that something is very wrong. I resolved the Advocacy Partner’s issue and then tactfully explained to her that I would be unable to help her again until I was back at work.
Later on in the afternoon I rang my line-manager, explained what had happened and said that I would not being doing that again, that I would wait until I was back at work, and fully recovered before starting to try to help my Advocacy Partners. I must also make it clear that my line-manager did not ask me to do what I did; it was my decision, albeit the wrong one.
I am not going to make any changes to the routine, which I adopted when I was discharged from hospital, that routine is working on both fronts, mental and physical. Plus the fact that on top of the routine, I am doing things which I never had time for when I was working, things, such as reading though the mountain of ‘must’ read books, using my camera again, writing, and probably most important of all meditation, which I think is a major factor in my gradual recovery from depression. One thing I definitely will not be doing is resorting to anti-depressants again.
There are many thousands of people with all sorts of mental illnesses, who do not know that there is something wrong. I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to recognise mine, and to do something about it.