Group Therapy - R U OK DAY?

**TRIGGER WARNING - discussion of mental illness, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts**

For those that don't know, these recent posts have been coming to you from a nice private psychiatric hospital. This came about because after fronting to my psychiatrist appointment and sitting there for my allotted time sobbing about how it was all too much and too rotten, and how it wasn't really and I hated myself for feeling this way because I knew that nothing had really changed, but my feelings had. I live with a fair amount of background anxiety and depression, and it had slid into a major depressive episode without me really realizing it. Happily, we got to it before it got to it's worst (I know how bad it gets, and this was not a 'rock bottom' scenario). Anyhow, my meds have been sorted, we have a plan for care going forward and I've had great care from the psychiatrist, psychologist and nursing staff and, despite some trepidation, I'm ready to go home tomorrow.

Why start talking about this now? Good question, thanks for asking! Today is R U OK day. I have had some wonderful people (friends, family and professionals) recognize that sometimes I am most definitely NOT OK and as a direct result I have been able to get treatment. I'm now at a point where I am more-or-less OK, and more to the point, comfortable sharing my experience. My hope is that there will be a critical mass of stories so experiences of mental illness are normalized and personalized to such an extent that getting treatment will be standard. In doing this I want to in no way diminish the horrible suffering caused by mental ill-health, I just want to remind people in pain that they have the right to seek treatment, whether they are currently coping or not.

Here is the short version: Ever since I can remember I have had periods of depression and anxiety. I started thinking about and planning suicide at eight. I had good days and bad days, good years and bad years. I got a formal diagnosis in my twenties (I went home and cried about that. For a week). I had postnatal depression after the birth of my first child (or was it just another depressive episode? I'll never know). When it I started to worry about my anxiety and depression effecting my kids I got serious about treatment and since then I've had several years of therapy and about five years of medication. Now I can add a few new medications and a short inpatient stay to that list. Going forward there will be more therapy, including DBT, a few lifestyle changes (including more exercise and 100 days dry) and of course, meds.

The other big one is how I explain this stuff to my kids? At 9 and 6 my two boys know there is something going on, and I respect them too much to lie to them. At the same time I definitely don't want to upset them so I explained, just two nights before I came in to hospital, that I was sick. I told them that last time I was sick it was my tummy, and I went in to hospital and when my belly was well enough I came home. This time it was my thinking and feeling that was the problem so I was going to a hospital that would help me get my thinking and feeling back to normal. They seemed OK about it at the time and they have been OK about it since - a lot more understanding than most adults, to be fair. In fact the little one got a lift home with a friend the other day and she told me he had been explaining things to her kids in the car. He said "Mum's brain is Out Of Control" (complete with whatever arm movements signified an out-of-control brain to an imaginative six year old). I think he nailed it.

Now, go look at a website like Black Dog Institute or Beyond Blue and read and learn something new (no matter who you are I PROMISE you can learn something from these sites) and then consider what you are going to do. Are you going to get yourself some help? Could you ask a friend or family member if they are OK? Can you afford to donate to one of these organizations? Or are you just going to smile at someone on the train or walking through the shops tomorrow?

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