When I write and publish a blog post, I am often praised for being open, honest and brave. From friends who text me to complete strangers who reach out to me, the support I receive after each post always features those words. I have often found this hard to understand, because for me, I am merely being myself and I don’t see myself as any of those things because I’ll talk about and share anything!
Nothing feels off topic. There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t talk about. What I write about in my blog about my struggles with my arthritis are exactly the same conversations I have with the people in my life on a day to day basis. I am a total open book.
Or am I?
Because there has been one topic that I haven’t yet tackled. One issue that I have struggled to tell anybody about at work (just two people know). Something that only a handful of people closest to me in my life know about (just the seven people). And why is this? Because I haven’t been open enough. I haven’t been honest enough. And I certainly haven’t been brave enough. Until now.
We live in a society now where we are encouraged to talk about mental health. We all have mental health, both good and bad. But we still live in a world where it takes a lot to stick your head above the parapet and say “Hey, I’m struggling”. But I’m big enough and old enough and ugly enough to be that person.
So here we go.
My name is Rebecca, and today I had my 6 month review of my first ever course of anti-depressants.
There. I said it. It’s out there. Do I feel better for it? I don’t know.
I should start by saying that I don’t need to make this blog post and I don’t even need to share with you all what’s been going on. But I am going to because I do have the strength of character to share and to put myself out there and because I know there will be a lot of you reading this who have been going through the exact same thing and have maybe felt alone and maybe even a sense of shame about it. But also because writing has been my form of therapy and saying all of this ‘out loud’ allows me to accept it, embrace it and crucially, move on.
So. How did this come about I hear you cry?
Well as anybody with a chronic illness can attest to, waking up one day sick, and realising that you will never, ever EVER get better is quite a hard thing to take in and to accept. And I neither took it in or accepted it.
The first few months after my diagnosis were not easy. I was upset, tired, confused and scared of what the future would bring. Who wouldn’t be! I could barely walk and I had never in my entire life felt pain like it. So I got signed off work by my doctor for a fortnight and it was the best decision I ever made. It gave me time to research psoriatic arthritis, to rest, to sleep, and even to see some of my friends all of which perked me right up. The anti-inflammatories I was prescribed started to kick in, I was walking again, heck, I even ran and entire half marathon!
I started on methotrexate the week after the half marathon in mid September. I had such high expectations! It should help your joints and clear your skin I was positively told by every medical professional I met! Life will go back to normal!!
Only it didn’t. The methotrexate didn’t work. My skin became worse. More joints became inflamed at an alarming speed. The dosage was increased. Still nothing happened. The pain became unbearable. The higher my dosages went, the worse my fatigue became. I would take the methotrexate on a Friday and literally spend the entire weekend in bed. Either asleep, or crying. I couldn’t be trusted to drive when I was this fatigued. I couldn’t go out of an evening because I literally couldn’t do it.
By the November I became withdrawn, quiet and a shadow of my former self. I didn’t want to talk to my boyfriend so what little conversation we managed was mainly me moaning, crying or shouting at him. We had just purchased our first home together, were living with each other for the first time in our 5 year relationship and the poor boy had just had a pacemaker fitted, he really didn’t need to have to deal with Moaning Myrtle too. Sorry Jack.
Christmas was a DISASTER. I spent the entirety of Christmas day in floods of tears. I refused to speak with Jack on the phone. Sorry Jack. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak, I just wanted to cry. I hurt, I hated my life and I hated everybody in it. I was due to travel to see Jack and his family on Boxing Day and I refused to go down. Sorry Jacks family. I wanted to just stay locked away in my room with my cat and never see the world again.
New Year came around, and my methotrexate dosage increased not once, but twice. I was now at rock bottom. My fatigue was now so severe that I couldn’t work on a Monday morning because I was still recovering from the Friday night. How life can change! I used to spend weekends recovering from wild nights out, a wild night out now consists of going to bed past 9pm!
April came and I didn’t recognise myself anymore. Not in any way. I didn’t wear make up, I barely brushed my hair, I took no effort in my appearance at all. I didn’t speak at work, I didn’t smile, I stopped laughing. My arthritis was not only any better on the methotrexate it was getting worse and worse and worse. As was I on a personal level. I was at rock bottom And so, one Saturday on a shopping trip with my Mum, I said the words “I think I may be sad and I think I need some help”
Over a cup of tea.
For Gods sake why couldn’t it have been somewhere classier? Literally my one and only time in a Greggs and it had to be the setting for the most important conversation of my life.
Anyway I digress. My Mums response was “Yes, you are”. So I told her I was going to go to the doctors and she reassured me I was doing the right thing. I told boyfriend the exact same thing, he had the same response as my Mum. I clearly surround myself with very similar people.
So off to the doctors I went. Jack kindly and selflessly left work early and accompanied me to my appointment. Only to be left in the waiting room by himself because I decided to go in alone. Sorry again Jack, nothing personal.
“I’m not depressed. I’m just struggling to cope with this situation. With my body. Struggling to cope with life right now. I just need a boost to get me back to who I was and then I’ll be ok”
And that was it. 20mg of fluoxetine a day for 6 months and you’ll be back to your normal fabulous self. Within two weeks my appetite had completely disappeared and I suffered my first of a serious of crippling panic attacks. Side effects clearly listed in the 10 foot of leaflet but scary nonetheless. Appetite quickly came back. *Sigh*.
But then I also started to come back.
A hairbrush here. Some nail polish there. I came off the methotrexate in July and my energy increased. I started to cope with normal, everyday situations better. I was no longer a crying mess unable to cope with even the simplest tasks. I started to come out of my shell again at work. I started to talk to Jack again. He possibly preferred me when I had less to say. Sorry Jack. You just can’t win. I wasn’t unnaturally happy (heaven forbid) but I was normal. As normal as I could ever be.
So now I feel almost strong enough to take on the world again. As my arthritis continues to cause me new pains and new problems, it isn’t to say I won’t have the odd wobbly moment, but I know I can cope. If not cope perfectly, but cope better. When asked today how long I’ve been told to wait before my new medication, cosentyx works, my response was “how long is a piece of string” so I’m going to stay on the pills until Christmas to get me over the first few weeks of self-injecting cosentyx (coming to another blog post to you soon) and to see how my body responds, I think that’s the best thing for me.
So if you’re reading this and you feel a little less alone, feel a little bit like you’re not the only one who has these feelings, that you’re not the only person going through it or a little bit closer to admitting to yourself or others that you need a bit of a pick me up then I’ll know that finding the strength to put myself out there has been worth it.