Depression, Anxiety and Alternatives to Medication

With both Bella from The Life of a Farmers Wife and her boyfriend dealing with anxiety and depression, don’t things get a bit too hectic? Bella doesn’t think so. Here, she explains her experience and how working as a team has helped both her and her boyfriend.

damI have written this in my drafts a few times already, but I’m not happy with how it comes across. I don’t think I’m explaining myself very well, especially for those who do not suffer with anything like depression or anxiety. So, I’m just going to let it spill out. If this doesn’t make any sense, please call me out on it.

Hi. I’m Bella, I’m 20, and I have generalized anxiety. I used to suffer with depression and an inability to adjust to big changes too, but with the help of medication I have learnt to… “control” it, for lack of a better word. My life over the last year has changed so much that any problems with change I had before are long gone.

Well, that’s me in a nutshell pretty much. I’m writing this post for the lovely Rachel, who is doing a little series on her blog on mental health. This is such an important subject for me, as I’ve experienced first hand how people can react due to not knowing anything about it. So here I am!

Diagnosis

I started having different problems with anxiety and the like when I was around 8, when my parents split up. It wasn’t a very nice or peaceful break up, and ended up losing contact with my father for 12 years.

Fast forward to about 18, and my anxiety and depression peaked in the winter of 2014/2015. I had recently moved from Mallorca to Menorca, and being the new English Girl in the school made me an easy target. I experienced the same treatment (or even worse) at my Primary School, also in Menorca.

I was bullied to the extent that as soon as I got in the car to go home, I would cry. It escalated to a point where even teachers were also mean and blatantly rude to me, and I started having panic attacks on a daily basis before even leaving my house in the morning.

I was living with my Grandma at the time, and she could see how upset and plain miserable I was. She would let me stay home on my worst days, but tried to encourage me to keep going. I had worked very hard to get into collage to study what I wanted to study. I kept this in my mind every day at school.

The last straw was the day it was made blatantly obvious that I was not welcome or included in the small class of 16 girls and three teachers. It was a Friday morning and I had attended the day before as well, meaning I was there for anyone to tell me if they had changed the schedule.

Anyway, I was waiting in front of our usual class room (and I mean ALL our classes were in the one class room, both theory and practical). A few girls and even a teacher from my class passed me, and I asked multiple times if we had changed classes today for some reason. I was either met with blank stares and ignored, or looked at as if I was stupid and told “no?”. I waited for over half an hour, and then decided to go to the front desk.

I asked if she knew where my class was, or if it had been canceled. The lady at the front desk told me they had moved the classes the day before so my class would have the computer room for the first two ours that day. I asked for directions and set off to the other side of the school.

Once I eventually found the computer room, I was officially an hour late. I knocked, and waited to be told I could come in. When the teacher saw it was me, she seemed shocked and then annoyed at my being there. She told me I was not allowed in the class, and to “go wait somewhere out of the way”. She waved her hands at me, and closed the door with a slam. I was so angry and upset, I burst into tears on the spot. I called my Grandma, and asked her to pick me up.

After that, I didn’t go back to school. I dropped out, and as there was no where else I could do that course on the island, I was at a bit of a dead end. This was also the time when my Grandma and I decided it was time to go to the doctor and see if there was anything that could help me.

I have to say, the doctor I saw at my local surgery was THE best doctor I have ever had. She listened, she didn’t jump to conclusions, she understood. She gave me some medication to take for my panic attacks, as my heart was feeling the strain of so many panic-attacks in such a sort space of time.

I soon had an appointment with a specialist. I say specialist, but I couldn’t class her as one at all. I was in the room a total of 10 minutes, most of that taken up by her literally just staring at me. She assigned me a psychologist, and I left.

The psychologist was even worse. She had many patients, and would often be late to her appointments making us line up down the hall. I only went two or three times, the last time she had been texting friends on her phone while I sat there waiting for her to stop.

It wasn’t until I moved to England that my medication was changed to my needs. I was put on 30mg of Citalopram after only one appointment with my new doctor. I soon saw a difference, and was able to start living a relatively normal life again. My confidence grew, I made a few friends, I met my boyfriend B and his two kids, all without worrying at all or having a panic attack.

Present Day

I’m now 20. After two years of help, I have managed to “cure” my depression. I obviously still have days where I feel a little down and have very little motivation to go out and do things for myself, but that has become very rare. I took myself off of my medication around 6 months ago now, and I’m proud of the change I see in myself. It proves to me that I don’t need medication to live a normal life, for the rest of my life.

I wouldn’t recommend taking yourself off of your medication unless you have a very understanding and helpful unit of friends, family, and doctors behind you. You also have to feel ready yourself. Don’t feel you have to do it as quickly as possibly just because I have or anyone else has, or that you have to do it at all.

Once YOU are completely happy, and feel grounded and leveled, if that’s something you want to do go for it. I believe in you. If not, don’t feel any pressure to.

Reactions

I mentioned earlier how I’ve experienced some ignorant reactions after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This was mainly due to the fact that they didn’t understand it, and didn’t know what or why it was happening.

I have had reactions from “Oh just get a job, you’ll be fine”, and it just being blatantly ignored, all the way to loving and supportive. Unfortunately, in my personal experience, the people who tended to be a bit more… harsh about finding out, were men. I know not all men, and not all women, have the same reaction, but we’re working on no-one having that type of reaction.

My advice to you would be embrace the positive people, the people who support you, help you, take an interest in how you are progressing. As for the more negative people? Ignore them. I know it’s hard, especially if it’s someone who is close to you, but their opinion on the matter normally comes from a place of ignorance.

I have managed to change a few peoples opinions simply by explaining to them exactly what is happening and why. How they can help, or at least not make me feel worse.

Men with depression and anxiety

B has also suffered with depression and anxiety, and unfortunately has received quite a few comments along the lines of “Men don’t have that sort of problem” even from people close to him. His depression and anxiety was caused by is parents splitting up and the home environment he was in before they eventually split.

B had a very different experience to me. He first tried to get help when he was around 12, but was told multiple times by different doctors that there is not help for people under 16.

Once he reached 16, he managed to get a referral to a Care Farm. If you don’t know what one is, you can find the official definition here. It’s basically a farm – with all the animals and vegetable planting, etc. – and you can go and help out. I know it doesn’t sound like it helps, but it’s proven to work. B himself within a year of being at Clinks Care Farm went straight into a job. He found he loved working with the animals, especially pigs, and has now been working at an outdoor pig farm for the last 5 to 6 years.

B now controls his depression with outdoor work. He has never used medication, and still to this day does not feel the need to use it thanks to learning to cope in other ways. There is a video on Youtube of him in an interview where he explains more.

B does suffer from anxiety when in a situation he wasn’t expecting, or when he feels there is unnecessary confrontation.

Working together

Both of us having experienced depression means we’re able to understand each other more; like where certain habits come from, or we’re able to spot when the other is feeling stressed or low in mood. We both have anxiety still, but we make it work. Where I’m comfortable and at ease – like when we are out in public – B may not be, but it helps him knowing that I am okay and that there is nothing wrong. Where B is comfortable – like driving, with 400KG pigs, etc. – I may not be, but I trust his knowledge and judgement, meaning I tend to calm down before my anxiety rises to anything significant.

Some have commented on the fact that my anxiety would fuel B’s, or that B’s anxiety would fuel mine. We’ve not found this to be the case, in fact it’s thanks to B that I no longer feel I need any medication. We work things out together, and tackle any obstacles together too.

I hope this has helped you in some way, either by encouraging you to get the help you want and need, or even switching medication for a Care Farm – feeding piglets or lambs is pretty cute! – or maybe helping you realize that you’re not alone in anything and that there is a community of support out there for you.

??Bella blogs at The Life of a Farmers Wife. You can find her on Twitter here!

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2 Comments

  1. August 13, 2017 / 5:28 pm

    THis is a really interesting post; thanks for sharing! I’ve read similar stories elsewhere, how a person suffers some trauma at the hands of others, but then that person is labelled ‘mentally ill’ and the perpetrator seems to get away with it. Your reaction to the bullying and nastiness at school was an entirely natural one. Faced with stress, one does experience painful emotions and shut down. And then off to the psychologist as if you’re the problem. However, I’m glad long-term you found peace and better health. Interesting also that B found his relief from depression through work, especially physical work and meaningful work, both of which have been shown to have positive effects on our emotional life. All the very best to both of you!

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