Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

Look up the word guilt in the dictionary and it refers feelings that may be experienced when you commit a crime.  Psychologists suggest that the purpose of guilt is to help us recognise when we have done something wrong and change our behaviour or make amends.  I have committed no crime.  Despite this, almost daily I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and I don’t really know why.

Who is judging me? Probably myself.  I have a picture in my head of what a woman of my age should be doing, feeling, behaving.  I don’t really live up to any of these images therefore I constantly berate myself for not being good enough.  But where has this picture come from? Certainly the media – only the other day  watched an advert that featured a woman who was talking about doing 10 things at once like it was a an achievement. Why? Surely if she is doing so many things she is (a) not doing any of the things very well and more importantly (b) not enjoying any of the things.  Yet somehow this is seen as something to aspire to.

It can’t all come from the media though.  Therapists (and I’ve had a lot of therapy) would say that we are affected by what we are told throughout our childhood and if a message is repeated often enough then you will believe it.  I’m not sure I have been told anything that would cause me to feel guilty though: I certainly don’t remember it if I have.  What I do know is that I watched my mum blame my dad over and over for things that he couldn’t do when what I really wanted to do was defend him:  It wasn’t his fault; he was severely ill; why can’t she do more? why can’t she help him?  Instead I did nothing because deep down I knew that she was doing her best.  She was tired and worried.  This was not the life she had planned for.  She was letdown.  Maybe this is what makes me feel guilty.  I also remember thinking that this is not the way I want to live; when I grow up I’m going to do things differently yet now I am ‘grown up’, I find it’s not that easy. I can’t achieve the prefect life I have in my head.

I guess what needs to be kept in mind is that nobody is perfect.  Nobody can do everything right all the time  The picture that is in my head is a fairy tale and when I’m not up to these standards, I haven’t failed.  I don’t have to feel guilty all the time.

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I noticed that someone in the government is suggesting that there needs to be a ‘mental health secretary’ in order to raise the profile of mental health up to the same level as physical health.  The reason being that mental health affects a lot of people yet the services are not nearly as accessible as if, say, you had broken your leg.   This got me thinking about my own experience of mental health services.

I was only six when our family had our first need for mental health services.  From a six-year old’s perspective we woke up one day to find my dad had literally gone mad overnight and by the end of that first day it was clear that we needed help fast.  Not knowing  where to go, the out of hours doctor was called.  He promptly turned up and then promptly left – stopping briefly on the step outside to write a hasty prescription then retreating – clearly out of his depth.  I don’t know exactly what happened over the next few days except we looked after him; often eating dinner while my dad was naked, talking balmy or being an animal.  We also slept downstairs with the ironing board in front of the door so that he couldn’t leave the house with no clothes on – eventually he was sectioned.  For the next six years, my dad was in and out of hospital while they tried to diagnose and control his condition.  He was assigned key workers that my mum could contact when needed and mostly, I would say that, the service was good: as they got to know my dad better, my mum had proactive people that she could get in touch with quickly.  To date, he still has regular meetings with a psychiatrist and with an added diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, the different professional areas are keen to coordinate.

Perhaps because my own experience of mental health has not been as dramatic or, perhaps serious, my experience hasn’t been as positive.  When I first had serious anxiety, I was at university but went to my doctor at home as it was the holidays, they prescribed me with beta blockers which I though made my chest tight.  Now, if you have suffered from anxiety, you will know that one of the symptoms anxiety is a tight chest – I don’t have asthma and so there is no reason why they should do this, but instead of investigating further, I was taken off them and told to go to the doctor at uni.  By this time, getting to the doctor was almost impossible and when I got there sobbing, I was told off by the doctor because I hadn’t come sooner.  However, they still simply prescribed me antidepressants and sent me on my way.  Over the next eight or nine years I was on and off of various antidepressants even though depression was not the problem.  One doctor I had bearly spoke to meet when I would make my monthly appointments to get the antidepressents.  He never asked any questions and it was only when I moved doctors that she informed me I had been on them for over two years.  I was refered to the mental health team when I moved, but because I was holding down a job, I was simply not a priority.  It is only now after having a child, so is potentially a social services case, and taking time off work (it could also be a change in borough – my forth), that someone has taken me seriously and I feel like I’m actually being helped.

This is where, I feel, the mental health services are going wrong – not taking moderate cases seriously enough.  Because the problem is, eventually those moderate cases become serious chronic cases unless they are addressed.  I don’t know what the answer is – perhaps more education for GP’s, more awareness in society so less stigma, more money put into therapies that really do help rather than just medication or spmething else.  What I do know is that, if a mental health secretary can get people help sooner, then I’m all for it!

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