World Mental Health Day by Agoraphobic Feminist

(Cross-posted from Agoraphobic Feminist)

Originally posted October 2013

Since today is World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write something, since it’s been ages since I’ve actually blogged!

Also, on this day in 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union to fight for women’s rights in Britain – so today is doubly important!

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, considering someone who doesn’t relate to feminism/doesn’t have any interest in understanding mental health issues probably won’t be reading this blog, but I felt I had to write SOMETHING, at least.

I want to raise awareness of the crippling illnesses of depression, anxiety and agoraphobia.

Some may argue that as these illnesses aren’t ‘physical’, they aren’t debilitating – I argue that although these illnesses originate in the brain, and in the case of depression are mood disorders – they definitely DO have physical side-effects.

My agoraphobia prevents me from going outside, so I don’t get the benefits of exercise or the Vit D from sunlight that I badly need. This, coupled with the lack of motivation due to depression means that I’m also overweight because the majority of the time I can’t motivate myself to cook a healthy meal.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Being overweight adds to my depression because I look at myself in the mirror and consider myself too ugly to be seen in society.

Being overweight also makes me worry constantly about the pressures I’m putting my body under. Every minor symptom (e.g. palpitations, leg pain, headache) will be blown out of all proportion by my anxiety. I’ve had countless scans, tests etc. to check there’s nothing physically wrong with me. The doctors say I’m perfectly healthy. I don’t believe them.

Being unable to go out means that I can’t work unless it’s from home. This severely limits what I can do, and it contributes to my depression as there are so many things I NEED and WANT to do.

The majority of the time I get my family, my boyfriend, or my friends to do favours for me, with strains my relationships with people.

Recently my anxiety has decided to make me worry about the medication I’m taking, so I stopped taking it. I’m supposed to be taking 40mg fluoxetine and 20mg mirtazapine, with 5mg of diazepam when I need it.

I’m well-versed in the side-effects of fluoxetine, as I’ve been taking them on-and-off for years. The mirtazapine is another matter, though. I’m not even going to Google it, as I know I’ll end up reading the side-effects, or some anecdote from someone they didn’t work for, and be even less inclined to trust them.

I will be starting the medication again soon, as my family have said that I’m better off with it than without it. We’ll see.

Another thing I wanted to mention is the fact that there are no set targets for mental health treatment within the NHS, which is something that’s always confused me but I’ve never thought to bring up until I saw it mentioned on the news a couple of days ago.

The story was about a young woman with bulimia and anorexia who had been made to wait 18 months for treatment. Instead of waiting, she has taken her care into her own hands, which I completely admire, but it definitely shouldn’t be this way.

If you’re diagnosed with anything physical – from a broken ankle, to epilepsy, to cancer – you’re put on a set pathway that dictates what treatment you need, and there are set timeframes for when you need that treatment.

With mental health issues, this is, unfortunately, not the case most of the time.

Now, I understand that mental health issues vary greatly from person to person, but in my opinion it seems like a lot of healthcare professionals take a shot in the dark when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental health patients.

I’m still researching this, so I honestly don’t have all my facts yet. In my experience, though, every healthcare professional will bring their own opinions to the table when they decide how they want to treat you, which is very, very wrong as it has confused me and made me less inclined to trust healthcare professionals.

The item I saw on the news did state that there will be better guidelines come 2015 – but I worry about the people who will suffer badly between now and then, and those who have already suffered.

It’s not only the patients who will benefit from better guidelines, but healthcare professionals too, as they will be less inclined to include their own opinions, morals or beliefs when it comes to diagnosing and treating someone.

My intention is to join (or set up) some sort of pressure group, the main aim of which will be to see guidelines put in place a lot sooner than 2015, and to change the way things work right now.

Some may call me naïve, and I myself know I’m not the most educated person on the subject, but when I see people suffering, all I want to do is help.

If anyone has any ideas or opinions for me, please comment below or message me. I’d be really grateful.

Spread the word – it’s so important to keep the conversation about mental health going!

AF x

Agoraphobic Feminist: I’m a versatile freelance writer that suffers from depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia. My writing covers a wide range of issues including feminism, equality, social issues and mental health.” If possible, I would also like to include the following links: (@AtHomeActivist)