‘But I’m not mental’ my mum shouted. ‘I’m not MAD!’
That’s how you can make someone feel a bit like shit in one move. Checkshitemate.
The GP was understanding. She’s nice and talked to my mum slowly but not in a patronising way. She asked questions and if my mum struggled rephrased them, so they could be answered easily.
Yes, regular and beloved readers, we made it to the GP today after Monday’s shennanigans.
My mum has numerous complex physical issues, and we discussed those, but today we also addressed something which has never been approached for whatever reason. My mum’s anxiety and depression.
Catch 22 this, mum had a severe stroke 3 years ago and has other conditions, a lot of them very serious, and she suffers from heightened levels of anxiety and severe depression as a result of all these things put together. But, in truth, she’s always had these issues in some way. She’s always suffered from anxiety and depression and they’ve always been as obvious as the nose on her face. And I’m not being mean by saying that’s massively obvious, because even she says she’s got a huge nose.
She agreed to go to the GP today and before leaving we were talking about addressing her anxieties. I reminded her of the iron saga all through my childhood which I blogged about previously and suggested she might have some OCDs. We all do don’t we on some level? But I suggested ringing the Blood Clinic every half hour after her regular blood tests to find out what her Warfarin levels are might be one. 14 times a day or more. Honestly. Sometimes much more. I suggested buying 6 toilet rolls a day might be another. I suggested panicking that the house will flood when we put the washing machine on and leave the house might be another. I suggested…
“I do NOT have OCD’s!” she screamed.
Then she screamed at me again because I’d put the cushions on the sofa back in the wrong order.
Honestly, I couldn’t make it up. But I didn’t do an ‘I told you so look.’ Go me.
So we spoke to the GP, and at moments mum crumbled and did that ‘hand on the side of her head’ tell she has when things get on top of her, but the GP could see this, and could see that my mum was becoming anxious. She wanted to talk to her about this, and was it okay? Do you feel anxious a lot? Do you worry a lot?
Mum then explained, in clear and lucid detail, which is very unlike her as she does struggle with communication, that she does, and always has done.
“It’s his fault” she said, pointing at me. “I’ve worried about everything since he was born. It’s hard being a single mum and I’ve worried about everything as it was just me and him”.
She was honest, and the GP appreciated this. She could’ve put it better but as I said, she struggles communicating. I tried not to take it personally, I tried not to think that my mum’s anxieties and instances of depression over the years were all my fault. I’d be stupid if I did. She didn’t mean this. Did she?
The GP suggested a referral, and some medication. A mental health assessment. She suggested a proper assessment might help work out whether some of her health issues are made worse by anxiety. Another Catch 22 right there but a start. Progress.
‘But I’m not mental’ my mum shouted at me when we left. ‘I’m not MAD!’
And that screeching in the background is Progress being stopped right in it’s tracks.
I suggested shouting at someone in the street might be a little mad, and then stopped for a second. I looked up into the sky and took a deep breath. Nope. It didn’t work. The tears had already started.
All the feelings of being criticised for my depression, all the negativity associated with it, all the times I was told to ‘just get over it’ came rushing at me like the running of the bulls at Pamplona. There’s me in Pamplona! Look! Wearing a white shirt, a red scarf and stupid trousers. And look! There are those bulls chasing me down.
Run Spencer. Run. Get out of the way.
I’ve had anxiety and depression for periods of my life and I’m doing well now. I can’t say I’ve licked it but I certainly feel able to deal with it better, much much better, and I know this will stay with me. It’s been a lot of hard work but the rewards are worth it. It lurks around the corner like a scavenger some days, ready to feast on whatever I leave lying around but I don’t leave anything out for it. And gone are the nights when it drains your heart, sticks your head in a vice and devours your soul to a constant soundtrack of words spoken and promises made.
Run Spencer. Run. Get out of the way.
I stood still. Mum stopped walking too.
‘What’s wrong?’ said mum.
I explained that a mental health assessment was a good thing. I explained that whatever might be able to help is worth embracing and doing fully. I explained how her anxieties might be contributing to her poor health and that there was nothing wrong with looking at ways of dealing with and managing these feelings. I spoke calmly and softly, for ten minutes and eventually mum nodded. She didn’t look happy but she agreed that it was a good thing to do. She agreed today. She might feel differently in a few days time.
I didn’t mention once about how I’ve been through such assessments. I didn’t castigate her for being one of those people who, by their words, demonise the term ‘mental health’ by attaching a negative association to it. I didn’t say ‘thinking like this does nothing to break down the stigma associated with mental health issues.’ I didn’t say ‘So what if you’re mad. So what if you’re mental. I’m obviously both and so are some of my best friends!’ I didn’t say anything like that. Although I was very close.
‘You’re right’ she said. ‘That Stephen Fry has depression and he’s not mad.’
I gave her a hug, told her I was proud of her for thinking about it, considering it, and suggested we went to a cafe for a cup of tea. Sit in the sunshine and relax a bit. It had been a tough morning.
‘No Spencer. I need to get home. The washing machine has probably flooded the entire house.’
Thanks for reading.