Seeing A GP For Your Metal Illness
It's hard to ask for help. I hate it personally. I'm a very strong person. It's almost as though I'm admitting defeat. Showing weakness. That I was unable to do it myself. There are some things that are out of our control and we do need help. I've mentioned this before, that I have visited the doctor's surgery to see a GP countless amounts of times over the years. It took me a long time to get the help I needed. However I have learnt a lot from doing so and hopefully, I can help others get the help they need quicker.
For me, it started to change once I had an understanding of what was going on.
One of the biggest things I've noticed around mental health is no one really knows a lot about it. I'm not an expert, there are mental health issues that I don't suffer with which I couldn't tell you anything about. Now, this is a problem. The lack of awareness of mental health is staggering. However, it is improving and has improved massively since I first started seeing a GP.
The reason I'm talking about awareness is that it helps tremendously. My own knowledge of mental health was non-existent till only a few years ago. If I had been made aware of these issues people face, I may have been able to relate to what I was going through earlier on. If others knew they may have been able to suggest sooner that I read up on mental health issues and help me in understanding my problems. Even professionals I believe don't or at least didn't have a great understanding and they could have picked up on what I was going through earlier.
It may be a blind illness but there are signs.
I sat in front of GP's over and over again explaining how I felt with no understanding of mental health. Leaving it all in their hands to decide what was wrong with me. They sent me for blood tests. Told me I had irritable bowel syndrome. That I had an overactive bladder. After that, they started saying I was stressed.
As I said above, it started to change when I had an understanding. After referring myself to Talking Mental Health on someone's recommendation as I wrote about last week (link here). I started to research more into mental health. Reading about anxiety disorders and panic attacks. I couldn't believe the stuff I was reading. It felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. That after all these years my symptoms finally pointed towards something that was realistic. I didn't feel alone. Other people were going through exactly what I was.
This meant that when I went back to see the GP I knew what I was talking about. They even agreed that after all these years that this could well be the problem and it had caused all the other things they had diagnosed me with.
It took me a long time to get to that point and this was four years ago. That's why I want to raise awareness. Not only for people suffering but for everyone around them to help the people suffering. This is something which should be taught about in schools and workplaces and everywhere else.
- loss of appetite
- feeling low or constantly anxious or worrying
- thinking negative thoughts about yourself
- irritability or moodiness
- finding it harder than usual to concentrate
- not enjoying your life as much as you once did
- finding day-to-day life difficult (not feeling up to washing or eating, for example)
- trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- seeing or hearing things that other people do not see or hear.
The above symptoms could point towards a poor mental health well being. Without knowing that I would have thought this was part of normal life. To be fair I did.
It is important to do your own research before seeing a GP. With only a 10 minute session you need to know what direction you want the appointment to head in. If you go in explaining how you are feeling, you may spend more time trying to figure out what is going on. Whereas you could go in and clarify how you've been feeling and check if they agree on what you believe is going on. They will ask the important questions which could better pinpoint the exact problem. With that out the way quicker, you can spend more time establishing the help you need.
I researched a lot about depression before going back to the GP this time around. I went in explaining how I was feeling and said I had been reading a lot about depression. That depression seemed to relate more to what I was going through. The GP then asked questions focused on depression and we basically agreed on me suffering from depression. From there we discussed the help I could receive.
What can the GP do?
Once establishing the problem with the GP. They can offer you various support.
The most common is medication if they feel it is appropriate. There are loads of different types and it is a case of trial and error to getting one that works for you. Hand in hand with medication they will offer you free talking therapy. This is the talking mental health which you can also self-refer to which I wrote about last week.
A balance between the two is often what helps but that's not always the case. I myself found medication along with therapy helped with my anxiety but the medication actually made me worse when it came to depression.
Other things they can offer is simple lifestyle changes, which do prove effective. I've been doing this a lot more recently.
Finally, make sure to have a checkup with your GP. Some will suggest this and others won't. I've had GP's prescribe me medication on a repeat prescription and not want to see me again for six months. Which is difficult to believe looking back.
Find a GP you are comfortable with. That you feel they will offer you that continuity of care. Go and see a different GP if you didn't get on with the first one. I've seen a handful and I now have one GP that I will see and she will ask to see me every couple of weeks. She has offered me far more support than any other GP I've seen thus far.
This probably shouldn't be the last point but maybe it is because I want this one to stick with everyone.
Be completely honest.
Trust me this is the best thing you can do. I played everything down for years. There were certain things I couldn't bear to say to the GP but because of this, I wasn't getting anywhere. In my head they were looking at me thinking, he's dressed well, his hairs done, he's sat up straight and maintaining eye contact, he's not in tears saying he wants to kill himself. Little do they know that's all a facade.
It was the best thing I ever did sitting in front of the GP explaining honestly what was really going on in my head and how I really felt.
They won't judge you.
I hope some of this has helped. I want to raise more awareness and help others get help sooner.