Good Afternoon Munchkins!
Once again, I have another ‘Let’s Talk About…’ for you. I’m actually really enjoying writing these, if not for some advice for you, then as a little bit of release for me. At the end of the day, I did start this blog to allow myself to express everything I want to and I don’t see why it should just include beauty and makeup, even though that is still a massive part of my life.
Today I will be talking to you about Parents Struggling with Mental Health as my Mum in particular, amongst other family members, is really going through a rough time and, as her daughter, it’s quite difficult to know where I stand and what to do. Hence, I will be including different tips of which I have found useful, as much of a learning curve as it still is, and I’m still finding it difficult to know what to do about it. In saying all that, not everyone is the same even if they do have the same illness, so just try these out and if they don’t work, just try again, taking ideas from what worked last time. Like the gay parent thing, I’ve come to realise over time that this is quite a common issue amongst children and teenagers around the world, and that my Mum’s actually a lot easier than some other cases, so just bare that in mind.
So last July my Mum started seeking help from the NHS about struggling with mental health after feeling quite low and depressed for a little while; I didn’t actually know this, it was something I didn’t really notice because we weren’t getting along at the time. I only found out after finding a letter with the NHS logo on, which immediately gave me warning signs because that doesn’t happen to us all the time. Around the same time, my Granny was being tested for cancer and the rest of the family were talking about getting tested because it does seem to run in our genes, so I initially thought it was a blood test or CT scan for that; I also want to be tested, so, of course, I was immediately curious and wanted to know more. I then read that it was about mental health and she was being referred to the NHS support thing for that (it has a particular name, but I can’t remember it right now, I’m really sorry!). I was initially really shocked because, as I say, we weren’t that close so I wasn’t expecting it, but it did kind of make sense: she was in a dead end job which she hated, had a really manipulative, psychologically abusive fiance at the time, and her Mum was about to be diagnosed with the same cancer her Aunt died of. I just saw it as another lie/secret in the mix of everything else and, of course, I was angry.
I think what happened was she had a phone call with someone from the mental health side of the NHS (I don’t want to say specialist because that makes it sound like it was private, but it wasn’t) who asked her a few questions, and she got sent a letter with one of those forms which you fill in and the answers are according to numbers e.g 5 is most like you, 1 is least like you. I don’t know when she initially contacted them, but it did seem to all happen very quickly. Once she’d answered all these questions, they let her know that she suffered from stress and anxiety, the same as me. I haven’t be diagnosed, but I’ve been having panic attacks since I was 7, so I’m kind of taking that as my answer, particularly as they can’t diagnose me at my age due to hormones and the effect that has on my brain.
In the beginning, I was actually really angry because she’d been struggling for a few months and seemed to immediately get help, yet I was here 8/9 years later with no help and no diagnosis, so no validation for what I felt. I kind of get that with a lot of people who are diagnosed before me because I can’t turn round to someone and explicitly be like ‘hey, I’ve got social anxiety’, because it isn’t properly diagnosed or professionally recognised; I look as if I’m just making it up, which I’d never do. I was also very angry at my Mum’s fiance at the time because she literally sat there and said ‘get help or I’m leaving you’, which isn’t going to make anything any better. Considering she was on anti-depressants every day for 7 years by that point, you’d think she’d have a little bit more understanding.
So during July/August of last year, she was sent to these group sessions for people with mental health illnesses like stress, anxiety, OCD etc., and she really did realise she wasn’t that bad in comparison to others, but it did also help her a lot. If I remember rightly, it was like 6-8 weekly, hourly, non-compulsory sessions, but you were referred and, therefore, kind of expected to go. I think it covered things like mindfulness and how to cope with stress and other forms of coping mechanisms, some of which my Mum did take use from. I think she only missed one, maybe two, but she did complete the course of sessions. She was also put onto anti-depressants (Citalopram, I think?) whilst I was staying with my grandparents during the summer, so I was quite nervous to what I would go home to. I think they took 2 weeks until they reached their full effect and started obviously working, so it wasn’t like an overnight change. She claims they work for her, but she is kind of reliant on having 1 or 2 a day, depending on what’s going on that day and how she’s already feeling, and I now notice a more obvious difference when she’s not on them. There have been points where she’s claimed they’re not longer working and she can’t cope again, she is obviously the hardest part because you don’t know what to do; do you let them be upset for a day or risk an overdose? She’s a very petite woman so an overdose would effect her quite significantly, and I don’t endorse that in any way.
Right now, she’s actually okay. She’s had a difficult 6 months, as we all have, with the loss of both of her parents, and her anxiety has really taken it’s toll. The hardest day was when she refused to get out of bed and just cried, and I literally had to force feed her food I taught myself how to cook that afternoon. It’s difficult for me watching a woman who was so strong 2 years ago and I could once rely on become so small and dependent on the others around her. This is one of the reasons her new girlfriend has already moved in – I can’t cope with looking after Mum on her bad days, running this blog, and doing all my school work/revision. Luckily there aren’t many difficult days at the moment, but the whole family feels it when there is. As I did say earlier, though, there are so many people worse off than my Mum.
One of the really noticeable side effects I’ve come to realise since she was diagnosed/put onto her anti-depressants was how confused and fuzzy-headed she is. I’m kind of similar and I’ve been told it’s to do with stress and anxiety, but I think hers is kind of worsened by her anti-depressants relaxing her as much as they do. Obviously they’re doing more good than bad and I’m not expecting her to come off them just because of that, but it does mean that I have had to become so much more independent and kind of make decisions for her, which is kind of crazy at 16 years old.
I know there are so many people worse off than me, so please don’t think this is like a little sympathy vote kind of thing, because it’s really not. I’ve also collected a little list of things I’ve found that have helped my Mum, and would maybe help your parent/guardian/family member, though everyone and their mental health is completely different and individual:
- Find something to calm them; my Mum’s is puzzles, but she can’t cope if they’re more than 500 pieces!
- Feed them; even when they say they’re not hungry and how much they shout abuse at you or push you away, they will appreciate it in the end, I can assure you.
- Let them know you appreciate them; this could be through cooking them a full on meal, or drawing them something, or anything you like to do that they know you enjoy and incorporating the things they like into it. This will just remind them that they are worthwhile and do mean something to someone.
- Get them to do some little chores; my Mum’s new favourite is walking the dogs, especially with our 6 month old pup! This will remind them they have reason to be on this earth, and just getting them to walk to the end of the garden to water the plants can have a huge effect on them – that new-found Vitamin D from the sun will also benefit them massively!
And that’s it! I hope you have been able to take something from this blog post and it has helped you in some way – that’s one of the main reasons I continue to write these. If you are okay with sharing your story, I would love for you to because it really does help me out and realise I am not alone in this!
Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you Tuesday,