Mental Health: More needs to be done

This is my first blog in a very, very long time. I have been busy surviving, living life and trying to make sense of the world these days.

What moves me to write today, is a recent experience I have had in the realm of Mental Health and getting the help I need.

For those of you not familiar with my story, I survived an unexplained Sudden Cardiac Arrest in January of 2012 that resulted in the implanting of an internal defibrillator. The next 3 years was a horror story of problems, medication changes, heart stops and ultimately shocks from my device. Over 120 times. I have been “stable” now for just over 2 years but my mental health issues hang on tightly, I just can’t seem to get past the trauma. For the past 5 years, I have struggled with Severe Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. While I have some of the best arrhythmia experts in their field responsible for the care of my heart, finding the help I need within our Canadian Health Care System to deal with the mental fallout has been a disaster.

There was very little in respect to mental health resources available to me in the big city of Vancouver, one on one therapy to get the real help I needed was available for upwards of $150.00 an hour, impossible on a fixed income. I could find cheaper therapy, but it entailed students working towards their degree and they were available to me for a few weeks or a few months at best, then I had to start all over with a new person. I was able to take advantage of some art therapy, which I found very helpful, but that was very short term as well. It’s been very frustrating especially with all the awareness being raised around mental health issues these days.

My husband and I recently relocated to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, we were desperately in need of more affordable living, some peace and quiet and although it meant leaving the safety net of doctors and hospitals who intimately familiar with my history, we really didn’t have much choice, we had to go somewhere else.

So, enter a new Psychiatrist. In order to take advantage of the mental health resources available in our new city, I had to be referred into the system here in Nanaimo. The wait time to see the doctor was 2 months, to date, I have only been referred to a Cognative Behavioural Therapy Group it’s only been 2 weeks so I can’t attest to it’s effectiveness. Last week, I had a followup visit with the Psychiatrist after 4 months in the system, our conversation is the reason I have felt compelled to write this blog….

I should also mention that an anti-depressant named Cipralex was one of the culprits assumed in the cause of my Unexplained Cardiac Arrest, the drug, as some anti-depressants do, lengthened my QT Interval and my current heart drug Quinidine is not very compatible with other drugs.  I am ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED of taking any additional drugs, so, imagine my surprise when I was presented with a prescription for Lamotrigine along with a study assuring me that this drug did not prolong QTc. As I sat there horrified at the thought of having a drug I did not want or ask for pushed on me, the doctor talked glowingly about all the good things it could do for my anxiety.  “It has been known to erase all PTSD symptoms” he said. This drug is used to treat epilepsy and when it was discovered that it made people taking it “happy” they decided to try it on patients with Bipolar disorder.  The drug comes with a Black Box Warning about life threatening skin reactions such as Stevens-Johnson Disorder and other horrifying things. Sign me UP!

I find it totally irresponsible for a doctor to give a patient who has been through as much as I have and has been told of the consequences I face by taking a drug that is not compatible with my heart medication to hand over a prescription and expect me to willingly have it filled.  He seemed quite surprised when I told him NO!  He told me he thought my only criteria for taking something was that it did not affect my QT interval.  WRONG!  He seemed quite proud of himself for finding the “special” drug just for me!  WOW!  So much for my hope of finally getting some of the help I so badly need.

This experience has been my call to action, I think that the mental health system has it all wrong.  I know there are people out there who require medication, I used to follow along until I died that day on my dining room floor, but I will no longer be are part of this “drugged” society.  I think they should offer more yoga, meditation, mindfulness, music and art therapy classes and encourage people to spend more time out in nature while they get their free “one on one” help to fill in the gaps and less medication. Kids should be taught these coping skills as soon as they start kindergarten, it will help them be more resilient as they grow up and allow them to have some tools as adults, just in case a curve-ball is thrown their way. It would take a huge burden off of the health care system.

It was a light-bulb moment.  I have to stop relying on a system that has failed me and take matters into my own hands.  I will have to search out the support I need myself, if I wait around for it to help me, I will never get better.

wish me luck.

 

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I’m getting bettah…

I am not sure I will ever get used to the fact that I need to have a piece of metal in my chest to help keep me safe and alive.  It’s is still very bizarre to me.

 

It’s been over 2 years since the ICD was implanted into my chest, at times it amazes me with the whole “wonder of modern medicine” thing and at times it depresses the living hell out of me, my life changed forever with the events of January 23, 2012, and I don’t like it one bit.  Mind you, the journey I have been on since that date has been one with lots of terrible lows and not so many highs.  I have dealt with so much.  The physical recovery from the event took a very long time but recovery from the mental aspect has taken much longer and I still very actively deal with it to this day.  I have had to mourn the loss of the life I had before this along with depression and anxiety and PTSD.  I have had to drive myself nuts trying to figure out my life purpose, after all, I came back from the dead, there MUST be a reason.  Then of course, all the woulda, shoulda, couldas, could I have prevented this from happening if I had only made some changes along the way.  There were also really dark times, the times when I wanted to just die and get it all over with, not that I really wanted to leave this earth but I figured it was a lot less painful than what I was having to go through.  I obsessed over dying, I was so afraid that I would be forgotten, that my family and friends would just pick up and carry on without me.  Then I would remember all the times that I thought of loved ones who have left  and I would realize that they go on because I think of them and the interactions I have had with them in my life.  It was with this realization that I decided that I needed to change the kind of person I felt I was, I wanted people to have warm and fuzzy thoughts about me.  I wanted them to know how I felt about them, how much they meant to me in my life, I wanted them to know that I had a happy life and that the love and support they gave me made a difference.  For someone who could hold a grudge for a very long time, this was a whole new way of life for me.  I decided to forgive myself and others for wrongs both real and imagined, and I decided to love myself and to stop the cycle of negative thoughts that reside in my head.  I started being grateful every day for the good things in my life instead of focusing on the bad, I took up meditation and walks in nature and slowly but surely I felt a shift.  I started reading about energy and raising my vibration and healing gemstones and I started accupuncture treatments and I joined a group where we discuss spirituality in a non religious way.  Today, I am a different person, I feel like all of the hard spots that have built up over the years have softened, all I need to do is keep working.

 

I still have challenges, it’s a constant dance of two steps forward, one step back but the steps back aren’t quite as far as they used to be.   I have family and friends and a group of medical professionals who are helping get life back on track  There are times when I get frustrated because I don’t think I am making the progress I should but then I have a day when I realize how very far I have come.  The heart issues are very much interconnected with my mental health, they feed off each other in a circular motion, but I have come to realize that as corny as it sounds, one day at a time.

 

A  friend once described me as cloudy with sunny breaks, today Douglas and I had a conversation about this and he thinks that a more apt description of me these days is sunny with cloudy breaks…now that’s progress and I will take it.