I am feeling somewhat more useless than normal. The days are evaporating like quality street from the tin at Christmas and very little is changing. What am I supposed to be doing? How does one recover from a mental illness?
Despite the physical pain from my fibromyalgia I'm walking several miles a day. The physical pain seems to mask the psychological misery somewhat and I enjoy the thinking time too.
If my experience over the last two years has taught me anything though, it is that mental health is a little like having an addiction. What? Give over, you say...!! I can hear your confusion from here!
Let me explain my theory, addictions creep up on you but are often visible to loved ones long before yourself, the same thing occurs with mental illness and depression especially. Tackling the issue of your addiction/mental illness is nigh impossible until the sufferer looks in the mirror and sees themselves for what they have become. Especially true in relation to your mental health. Until you can look in that mirror and see the real you, not the fake you, then you cannot possibly hope to start working towards a better state of mind. I happen to think that once you have suffered from a mental illness then it will always be with you, you may learn coping strategies, use mindfulness, undergo counselling, yoga etc. but essentially in my opinion/experience you will still always have your mental illness wrapped away in your coping parcel, much like a pass the parcel gift, but this one is safely tucked away in the corner of your mind. How well your mental health is from day to day, month to month, may well depend on how many layers of paper get ripped off your parcel by any given set of circumstances.
Mental Health does fluctuate, it is not a rigid thing, some days are good, some are bad. Some days the sun shines and some days it does not. Sometimes there is root cause, sometimes there is no explanation for the darkness but the fluidity of mental health is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to grasp, especially for those around us. When the black dog comes bounding our way, knocking us over before ripping off those last layers of paper from our coping parcels you have no choice but to accept it. There is no choice about mental health, I do not choose to me a miserable cow, the darkness descends, the world seems evil, there is no hope, everything is pointless and I'm instantly the biggest waste of space around. The following day however I can feel carefree, happy go lucky, talented, excited for the future and mildly content with my lot. There is no on and off button, the cards get dealt and you have to play the hand life gives you. Some days its a good hand, others its shockingly crap and can only mean defeat.
So perhaps if I look in the mirror what do I see at the moment..
Well I'm still broken, I accept I have depression, anxiety and have a Fibromyalgia diagnosis. The reality of that is being anxious continually, waiting for the inevitable bad thing to happen. I don't know what it is but if you live with anxiety there is always a prickle at the back of my neck warning me that danger is close. Anxiety means I live in a permanent state of crisis, the door gets knocked and my heart races, adrenaline starts to pump, I become breathless, my head spins, my neck stiffens and panic takes hold. Why you ask? Who knows?! Wish I did!
Telephone calls freak me right out, I've mentioned it before but dear lord they make me feel so ill. The phone rings and in that split second my heart feels like it is going to leap out of my chest, I feel like running and hiding. I don't of course but telephones currently make me cry.
So am I making any progress? Well I have got the diagnosis since being off sick, I have a referral to the pain clinic, and then my big news...
Last week whilst sat on my sofa crying again, (I need shares in a tissue company) I realised that no one was coming to help me. I think I had expected somebody to take charge and tell me what I needed to do but they hadn't arrived. With no partner to help, no family interested in helping I have to dig myself out of the pit and that's no mean feat let me tell you. It's taken nearly three months of psychological, and physiological pain to find the courage and mental stamina to ask for help. Thankfully it has all been done by email.
I had been recommended a charity that dealt with police officers suffering from PTSD. The founder's husband suffered with PTSD from his police service and Claire had helped him through it. She's an expert at police rules and regulations these days and offers support o any police officer and/or their families. So having been told about her by a twitter buddy (one of my make believe friends, in joke with my tweeps!) I went to her charities Safe Horizons UK web site and filled in their on line enquiry form and with a shaking hand and tears rolling down my face I hit the send key.
Within 30 minutes Claire McDowall herself had sent me a lovely email, the tears didn't stop running down my face but I knew I had made the right decision to ask for help. We emailed a little before she thought I needed help from a partner charity called Save Our Soldiers and she put me in touch with them. The Save Our Soldiers web site runs an online chat session with people asking for help, so I chatted to Daniel and he asked about my needs, requirements, problems. It was much like a Messenger conversation in format and speed. Daniel explained that they had counsellors and coaches nationwide who helped with PTSD and he told me he would source one for me locally and come back to me by email as I requested.
Now after that session I sat back feeling I had achieved a lot. I was quite stunned by people offering help so readily, but little did I know that my new coach would be in touch within another 30 minutes...wow!
Debbie Banks made contact offering me her services, asking me how she could help.
Well my gast was well and truly flabbered! All that amazing help and support within hours of asking for it. This is what the police service should be doing for its officers and staff. I have been off sick for nearly three months, in that time I have had a summons twice to attend an occupational health assessment, twice for a case conference to discuss how to get me back to work (well once I didn't attend the first one arranged), and the welfare department contacted me today asking what they could do to help.
Debbie has been in contact regularly since then and is actually coming up to Dorset for two whole days to help me...
Not an hour session every six weeks like Steps2Wellbeing or other counsellors I have encountered but she is travelling to Dorset for two whole days to work with me. No one has ever done that for me, not even family.
I'm scared to death of it, don't get me wrong, but despite wanting to cancel it, or run away from it, I do know my future depends on sorting out my head.
My last piece of current affairs information is that I have my works case conference on Thursday afternoon, 23/3/17, where they'll be discussing how to get me back to work. Looking forward to that one lots as you can imagine!
That's all for now my fellow black dog cops.