A post from our Community Correspondent Maureen Gilmour
Someone once told me “the only thing constant is change”
Nothing ever stays the same for long, but to go from one extreme to the other is quite a dramatic change.
I was once at one time a capable, confident, able employee who thought nothing of giving my work 110% – always one of the first at work in the morning and often one of the last to leave. I loved my job. I worked hard to get the position I wanted and was keen to help junior colleagues strive to be all they could, encouraging them to learn and improve their abilities, being a strong role model.
So, to go from that to someone who would not leave their bed, never mind their house, was a dramatic change for me. Admittedly it did not happen overnight. I had struggled with low mood, sleep deprivation, flashbacks of traumatic events and a difficult marriage for years. But when that “final straw” came it hit me like a bolt out of the blue.
I cried for months. Once it started I couldn’t stop it – that dam broke and I had no way of controlling the tsunami of emotions that followed.
I had spent years masking my true feelings – hiding behind my work, my role as a wife and mother, but all of a sudden I was unable to “perform” these roles.
I took to my bed and hid in “blanket bay” for months, only venturing out to attend appointments and meetings with my boss, and even then never alone. I just couldn’t deal with the thoughts in my head, the images, like a video playing in my mind, a constant horror movie on repeat. Those feelings of fear, terror, shame, guilt.
The change was dramatic. My husband, my children, my close friends couldn’t believe the change in me. The change that comes with mental ill health. The change that comes with neglecting your own needs whilst tending to everyone else’s.
My life changed so dramatically that I was no longer living but existing day to day.
I had no strength to even attempt to “perform” my roles in life. No motivation, no interest in anything. I had gone from a person who performed her job well in a very demanding and stressful role to one who barely existed, living in my bed, unkempt, unwashed, disinterested. I would get out of bed during the night and wander around my house in the dark with my faithful dog by my side. Wandering from room to room while my family slept. Staring out of the window into the darkness for hours trying hard to ignore the horror movie that played in my mind. Sleep a stranger to me.
I frightened my husband, my children, my close friends and even my boss. No one had ever seen me like this. No one understood the reasons for the change in me. I let no one in for years, able to wear my mask when all of a sudden it was gone. I had nothing to hide behind and no way of getting that back.
With much persuasion from my new GP, family and friends I eventually agreed to accept referral to mental health services.
After no less than 6 assessments from 6 different members of the mental health team I had both a diagnosis and a treatment plan. I decided at the beginning of this venture that I would be honest with both myself and those working with me and have never missed an appointment. If I wanted to make any changes for the better in my mental health I needed to do this properly – honestly and openly.
It has taken me a further 18 months to make positive changes in my life. It’s been an interesting and somewhat eventful road to recovery but I continue to make changes as my journey continues.
I have given up my job, retiring early through ill health. I have experienced the humiliation and degradation of the benefits system and gave up on that.
My illness has eventually come fully to light and I am now better able to accept this and talk openly about my condition.
My close friends and new friends accept of me as I am. My extended family and children are supportive and are accepting of the changes in my life.
My marriage of 28 years is coming to an end, as it should have done a long time ago. But these changes are positive ones.
I am no longer a charge nurse. No longer a confident, capable, dedicated employee of the NHS. I am no longer that overworked, stressed CPN giving 110% to my job.
I am me. I volunteer one afternoon a week at Muirshiel Country Park with support from 2 friends. I am taking guitar lessons again after many years away from it. I am involved in other mental health groups with support from my friends. I am setting up a new craft group with my new friends- craft2recover.
I am in recovery. I know I still have some way to go on my journey but the changes keep coming and at least now they are positive. I have learned to embrace these changes. As someone once told me “the only thing constant is change”.