It seems so long ago but in truth it has only been a matter of weeks since it all started. Last September I took a new job as a project manager overseeing a new project, the hours were long and I was practically on call 24/7. I was also doing this from home whilst in the process of renovating a new home so life was quite hectic to say the least. At first I seemed to thrive on the stress, making decisions, being in charge, I felt important and in charge. By february the money for the renovation and paying rent on a property was running out, we had to move into a half-finished house and I was still working from home. Soon the cracks started appearing, I felt like I was losing control at work and found making decisions harder to make. Family life was strained and I started to get frustrated often letting this frustration show as anger and I started to hate myself.
My mood swings were getting worse, one minute I was up almost clown like, acting silly but this was mainly for my daughter and most likely a bit of mania. Next minute I was down, either angry or withdrawn, I thought I was acting normal but my actions were noticeable to those around me. I started to withdraw, not leaving the house, making excuses not to go anywhere or see anyone. conversations with work colleagues started becoming more despondent, rather than being a positive influence I would take small set backs as major issues, every time the phone rang I would feel the anxiety rising. I found excuses turning to lies and making promises that I knew would not be kept, I could not sleep for worry about work, playing the days events through my head and dreading the next day. I was convinced my partner was going to leave me and money was becoming a big issue.
I started feeling pains and numbness in my chest and arm, I worried as there is a family history of heart disease and after a few days of ‘manning up’ but secretly worrying like mad I asked my partner to take me to A&E, the doctor asked a lot of questions but my answers were vague, I felt like he thought I was faking it, after a few tests I was declared physically fit and sent on my way. It started to dawn on me that if it was not my body then it could be my mind. I bigged up my visit to A&E to work in the hope my work load would be reduced and I would get help but whilst they put a plan together it was more a tick box exercise than a real solution. I soldiered on.
As I have previous experience I have stayed away from drink, I wonder now that if I had still been drinking I would have noticed my spiralling condition sooner as I know it as a trigger. Without the drink I took longer to accept that I was in a bad way. One weekend a staff member rang me for a simple problem, I cracked, I did not handle the situation well and after putting the phone down I felt guilt, by the end of the following week I knew I needed help. I have never been to a doctor before apart from when my daughter was born and I had stomach problems and was put on anti depressant and stomach meds. When I went to see the doctor this time I mentioned that I was again having problems with my stomach and was feeling stressed at work. the doctor was sympathetic and prescribed Paroxetine and Omeprazole and signed me off work for a week. As with most people with mental illness I held back, I didn’t mention how bad I really felt and felt that as I now had meds all would be right with the world.
Paroxetine if you don’t know it is a SSRI or Selective serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, I don’t want to dwell on medication in this post but suffice to say they take several weeks to start working but the side effects are instant. I guess the first week passed well in my mind because of the placebo effect, I was taking medication so I must be getting better. I went back to the doctor a week later and he increased the dose, again I made light of my feelings and agreed to another week off work as the side effects were giving me the shakes and my sleep was disturbed. A week went by and I tried to convince myself that I was getting better, I felt less anxious and more relaxed but as my partner pointed out I had not actually done anything for two weeks. In fact in that two weeks I hardly left the sofa.
My next visit to the doctor I convinced him that I could go back to work, he was reluctant but agreed as long as I reduced hours, and had a lighter workload he signed me fit. My employer was very understanding but as soon as the phone started ringing the anxiety was back, nothing had changed, I went into melt down. My partner told me that week that she hadn’t seen a change in me other than sleeping all the time, she was convinced the medication wasnt working for me and by the Friday that week I was in a very dark place. That Friday was the 15th of May 2015 and whilst I don’t want to leave you hanging but what followed was the darkest period of my life so far and deserves its own post.