Just a quick post to check in as it’s been a little while and I’ve got something very exciting to share…

I’ve just had my last ever CBT session!

It’s been a long old journey, with two separate therapists and many, many issues to work through. But I DID IT!

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I’ve not been very well over the last couple of weeks and that just after my birthday something happened that once would have been my worst nightmare: I threw up.

If you don’t know, I have HAD emetophobia, a fear of vomiting. At my worst, this phobia controlled my life, made me starve myself and turned simple things like eating in public into a massive source of anxiety. As is common with emetophobes, I am very rarely ever sick. But for some reason, that night I was.

And you know what? I was completely fine. I mean, I didn’t enjoy the experience, obviously, but I stayed calm throughout, cleaned up after myself and took it in my stride. That might seem small to you, but to me it was a huge achievement.

Since then my confidence has grown and grown. I now eat things with my hands at work, eat chicken on a regular basis, and a few days ago did something I honestly never thought I would be able to do – I ate a sweet without washing my hands first. I didn’t try to tip it in my mouth, or pick it up with the wrapper. I just plunged my hand in the bag and went for it.

The list of small victories like this goes on and on and I’m ridiculously proud of myself.

This time last year I was at my absolute lowest point. I honestly felt hopeless. It’s been a long, difficult road, with almost 40 sessions of counselling and a prescription for Sertraline, an SSRI. Now, I feel like a new person.

No, that’s not quite right. I feel like the old me is back. The version of myself that finds joy in things, smiles for no reason and has goals, dreams and drives.

I was almost bursting with happiness when I reeled off this list of achievements to my counsellor and she looked so damn proud of me.

I went in knowing it was likely to be my last session. I felt ready. I’ve learned what I need to be kind to myself, to support myself during difficult times and to listen to my rational thoughts rather than my obsessive ones. I’m still recovering, but I feel confident enough to go it alone now.

Right before I said goodbye to my counsellor she said

You did this’

‘It’s not easy, but you did this.’ I can’t tell you how proud that made me feel. Finally I believe in myself again. All that trust in myself I’d lost over the years (for one reason or another), is coming back.

I feel invincible.

Afterwards I walked to work in the sunshine and treated myself to a milkshake.

Elliot drinking Starbucks

I reminded myself of this scene!

I’ve got this. I’ve bloody well got this.

Recovery is possible. There is hope. I hope that I’m proof of that.

If you think CBT could help you, speak to your GP, who may be able to refer you to local NHS services. Or, check out the BABCP website, to find a private therapist in your area.

Discussing your mental health with a doctor for the first time might seem daunting but you really needn’t worry. Here are a few of my personal tips for getting the most out of your appointment and looking after yourself at the same time.

  1. Book a double appointment if you think you’ll need more than ten minutes. I actually didn’t know you could do this, but luckily my doctor spent a good half an hour with me anyway!
  2. Don’t be ashamed to cry. The doctor won’t think you’re being silly, they won’t judge you and they most definitely will have seen it all before! Remember that by nature doctors are caring people and will only want to help you.
  3. Be honest. You don’t need to sugar coat how you’re feeling when you speak to a doctor. It will help them make a better decision about your treatment if you give them all the facts.
  4. Take notes in with you. It’s very easy to get muddled or forget to mention things, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or upset. Making the notes with someone close to you (only if you feel comfortable) could be a good idea too, as they’ll be able to help you organise your thoughts and offer an outside perspective. Aim to be as clear as possible about how you feel, how long you’ve been feeling it for, and the impact it’s having on your day-to-day life. For example, is it stopping you leaving the house, or affecting how well you take care of yourself?
  5. Make sure you leave the appointment understanding your treatment plan. If you’re prescribed medication, ask the doctor when they’ll want to see you again to check in. They’ll likely want to see you fairly regularly, at least at first, to make sure the medication and dosage is right for you. Have an idea of time frames and maybe even book your next appointment there and then (if possible).
  6. Ask all the questions you need. Don’t feel bad for doing this. You’re not being a pain, that’s what the doctor is there for and ultimately they will want to reassure you. It’s useful to have an idea of how long they expect you’ll be on the medication for, and any potential side-effects. Ask if there’s anything you should avoid – alcohol, other medications, natural supplements, etc.
  7. Your usual doctor may not be the right one for you in this particular situation, but that’s OK. If you don’t feel listened to, supported or understood, don’t be deterred. Your feelings are valid, so please don’t start to doubt that. Instead seek out the care you deserve by making an appointment with a different doctor. It’s important to have a GP you trust and feel comfortable with, as you’ll likely see them quite regularly, at least at first.
  8. You may well be asked some very direct and possibly uncomfortable questions. They’ll likely ask if you’ve ever felt suicidal, or if you think you could be at risk of harming yourself. It might not be a pleasant conversation, but it’s important to remember that these are routine questions and the doctor is asking them with your best interests at heart, not to judge you. Take your time answering, and please remember that when it comes to how you’re feeling there’s never a wrong answer. Whatever you say will simply help the doctor decide on the best treatment for you.
  9. Remember, your doctor can do more than just prescribe you medication. They will be able to refer you to local mental health services for counselling, and can even give advice on diet and lifestyle changes that may help. They may well ask you more general questions about your life (family, work, friends, etc.) to get a clearer picture of any other challenges you may be facing, as well as what kind of support system you have.
  10. Be kind to yourself. Keep some time free after your appointment to do something that will make you happy. Maybe treat yourself to a hot chocolate, watch your favourite TV show or have a nice long bath.
  11. Lastly, and most importantly, never feel ashamed for seeking help. I can’t stress this enough. In no way does needing help make you weak, worthless or a burden.

It takes a great deal of strength and courage to open up to another person, so be proud of yourself.

You are amazing and you will get through this. <3

 Image of a flower

Photo of medication

I’m writing this late on a Friday night. I don’t know if I’ll actually post it, but sometimes it just feels good to get everything down on paper.

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing any more.

I’m filled with doubt. So much doubt. Doubt in myself, my decisions, and my own strength. I fear that deep down I’m a terrible person. Selfish, cold and unfeeling. I’m terrified I’m not becoming who I want to be.

I never feel at ease. There’s always something niggling at the back of my mind, an itch I can’t quite scratch. I’m scared. Really scared.

I went back to my GP the other day. I’m seeing a different doctor now, but I like him. One thing he said to me though has stayed with me, and I can’t quite shake it off.

Far from demonstrating the reassuring confidence of my last doctor, he looked at me with concern in his eyes and asked, ‘Do you actually think you’ll be OK? Are you going to get through this?’

He asked it kindly, and it was a clever question because it got me to open up, but I just can’t stop hearing those words in my head. In that moment I desperately wanted some sort of reassurance that I was going to be alright. Instead he looked at me with the worry of someone who wasn’t convinced that was true.

I told him there are days when I wish I didn’t exist. He asked me if I’d ever act on those thoughts. It’s funny; the first time I was asked if I felt suicidal I flinched. I was shocked by the question, taken aback by the bluntness of its delivery.

Now, I’ve been asked so many times that it almost feels casual, like everyday small-talk.

I said no; I’ve never felt suicidal. I just feel scared of how overwhelmingly low I feel sometimes.

I can’t help but wonder how I got to this point. When did sitting in a doctor’s office chatting about suicide become an average Wednesday morning?

He upped my dose of Sertraline and prescribed beta blockers for anxiety. I haven’t taken any yet, but having them in my back pocket is a nice safety net. “I can’t change your world, but I can help in small ways,” the doctor said to me.

Beta blockers help to tackle the physical symptoms of anxiety, and I find it incredibly comforting to know that even though there is no magic cure for the larger issues, there are small things I can do to get me through the harder days.

My new counsellor is great, but I feel like I’m hitting a wall. She wants me to step outside of my comfort zone, by taking away some of my safety behaviours. I don’t know if I can handle that right now. I want to get better, but I feel like I’m sinking. I probably have about nine sessions left, which doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough.

More importantly, I don’t think I’m in the right place for her to be able to help me.

I need to want to help myself, but all I want to do is give up.

I wish, so badly, that there was a magic word, or a switch that could be flipped that would fix me. I wish that I could learn to listen to the rational part of my brain when fear and compulsions take over.

I feel angry. Angry at the events in my life that have made me like this. Angry at myself for not recognising sooner that I had a problem. Angry as I watch myself slip away, while I long to be ‘normal.’ I’ve gotten better in so many ways, but worse in so many others. It’s like a game of tug of war in my mind.

And I’m losing.

I’ve felt glimmers of happiness this year, as parts of the old me started to come back. There have been moments when I’ve started to believe things will get better again. I just need to hold onto those and have faith.

I can honestly say that the first six months of this year were the hardest of my life. I was working from home in a job I found unfulfilling, and I spent most days feeling lonely and worthless. With no reason to get dressed or leave the house, and no-one to talk to all day, I felt like my life had no direction or purpose. Some days I felt so flat I didn’t have the energy to move, and even the simplest things, like eating, felt too difficult.

I had countless job interviews and spent months on an endless roller coaster of nerves, excitement, hope and eventually rejection. Hopelessness enveloped me like a thick blanket, heavy and suffocating. The longing I had for happiness felt like a physical ache in my chest, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t see a way to turn things around for myself.

I had failed.

The life I’d pictured for myself when I was younger was exciting and full of colour. Instead I’d reached 28 and was merely existing, my world a dull, muted landscape of drudgery and exhaustion. I hated the person I’d become. While once confident and spontaneous I was now withdrawn and afraid of the world around me.

I kept telling myself that one day I would look back on this time in my life and laugh at how silly I was being. I would wonder what the hell I was even worrying about. This was all just a blip, surely. As much as I told myself this though, I couldn’t quite make myself believe it. I considered giving up altogether, but was afraid of what giving up would even look like. I was paralysed by the fear that I would never move forward but also that I was starting to feel like I didn’t want to.

The path

I’d been defeated. My confidence was shattered, and each interview became a challenge not to break down and cry. I knew I was putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself, but I couldn’t stop. Applying for jobs became an all-consuming obsession.

I was struggling in my personal life too. Counselling took me down a difficult path that ended with the loss of two important relationships. The loss was sudden but at the same time felt like it had been a long time coming. The sense of betrayal however left me raw, confused, and questioning who I was as a person. It added to the feelings of worthlessness I’d heaped upon myself and made me want to rip off my own skin and become someone new.

I grieved, as one would any loss, and in time found acceptance and closure. I realised that I had chosen my own family, and was in no way defined by my blood, or my past.

I even learned to be thankful for it, because it pushed me to make one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Blinded by sadness and overwhelmed by how lost I felt, I reached out in a moment of desperation to someone I’d always been afraid to ask for help: a doctor. I have no idea why I was so nervous, because he instantly put me at ease. He treated me with kindness and compassion, patience and understanding. He told me it was OK to cry, and offered sincere, gentle reassurance.

With absolute confidence he looked me in the eye and told me something no-one else ever had: ‘You will get better.’ This time my tears were of relief. I’d once asked my counsellor if she thought I was ‘unfixable’ and I think I’d started to believe that I actually was. I don’t think my doctor will ever know the impact those words had on me, and how much I needed to hear them.

He prescribed me Sertraline, and though I was scared about the possible side-effects and prospect of being on medication long-term, his words gave me the courage I needed to set those fears aside. He told me that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and for the first time I started to believe that.

That was five weeks ago, and I can honestly say I already feel a massive difference. Since then, I also landed my dream job as a social media executive for an exciting new company. I get paid to write, be creative and basically do the things I love. I’m surrounded by interesting, passionate people that I can talk to and bounce ideas off of. The office is buzzing with music and laughter and it’s everything that I’ve been missing for so long.

I feel valued again.

I can remember how it feels to have passion and drive, and I wake up in the morning feeling like I can’t wait to get to work. I have the freedom to build this role into exactly what I want and I’m SO BLOODY EXCITED about my future again. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have hoped for a job that’s more perfect.

It was scary at first, being forced to suddenly step out of the little bubble I’d carefully built around myself. Interacting with people again was overwhelming and exhausting, and I had one or two moments of panic when I questioned whether I could actually do this. But in those moments I took a deep breath and thought about all the things I’ve already managed to overcome. Slowly I started to believe in myself again.

I’m so grateful that someone else saw my potential, even when I couldn’t. My job has given me structure, purpose and a sense of worth again. I feel like I’ve woken up from a long, deep sleep.

SEA

Recently, after a lovely evening with one of my best friends, talking and laughing like we used to, she pulled me into a tight hug and whispered in my ear, ‘You feel like Mel again.’ Every day I can feel a little bit more of myself starting to come back and I’m glad others can see it too.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in these last few weeks, but mainly I’ve realised that I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.

When you’re struggling with depression or anxiety it’s so easy to see yourself as weak or worthless. You’re not. When the simplest of tasks feels like a steep, uphill climb, and every day feels like a battle, it takes a warrior to keep moving forwards.

Please don’t think for a second that admitting you’re struggling is anything to be ashamed of either. Another lovely thing my doctor told me was that coming to him for help proved how resilient I am. He made me feel strong at a time when I felt utterly broken, and I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am for that.

It amazes me that people can come in and out of our lives without ever truly realising the impact they’ve had on us. To my doctor and all the other people who have listened, supported and believed in me, I offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks.

I would like to thank myself as well.

Thank you for not giving up, even though you wanted to. Thank you for believing that happiness was out there and fighting for it with everything you had. Thank you for reaching out and seeking the help you knew you deserved. Thank you for realising that the right path isn’t always the easiest, and thank you for having the courage to take it anyway.

Thank you for showing the world what you’re made of.

XOXO

If you’re struggling, please reach out, whether it be to friends, family or your doctor.

You are loved and cared about, and things will get better.

Always remember, you’re so much stronger than you give yourself credit for.