Health: Barriers, Access and Mind Games.


Ever since I wrote my post a few weeks ago, I guess I wanted to give you all an update because I had so many wonderful well wishers and messages - thank you so much.

I wanted to talk a little bit more about my experience of accessing mental health services and explore more about certain self imposed barriers and those imposed by health service professionals.

Firstly, you might recall I talked about 'building a fort'. After I had Poppy, the mental health services I had been accessing moved location to an area which, with a very young baby, no car and poor public transport was difficult for me to access, that was one of the first steps to our fort building. We decided as I was okay at the time, that we'd just 'manage', we couldn't afford the taxis, and the thought of two buses with a pram was more than my delicate brain could handle. So geographically and I think personally that was one of the first barriers we came up against.

The second, and probably self imposed barrier, was having just become a new mum, I was scared about the repercussions of accessing mental health care. In my head, I had told myself if I carried on seeing the mental health team, they would eventually take my baby away from me. Now let me take a moment to reassure any parents out there... Unless you pose a very real physical or mental risk to your child, this will not happen. Mental illness does not make you a bad parent, those of you with mental health problems know all too well that the majority of people with MH conditions pose no threat to others. BUT try telling a new mum that, especially when any new mum regardless of health conditions, feels scared, unsure and frightened about this whole new world they're having to cope with.

The third was my reluctance to access care because of my size. I remember vividly, when I was first diagnosed with bipolar, the consultant psychiatrist wrote on his report "Rebecca is a 25 year old obese woman who is well presented" - Firstly I'm glad my effort to dress well impressed you (fuck you) but that has stuck with me to this day, what possible relevance has my size got to do with my mental health? Has my brain got so fat that it can't function properly? Nope, but as with everything in the health service, a person's weight has bearing on their treatment including the type of anti depressants they prescribe, as god forbid you got any fatter.

Years later I tried to access some care, albeit in a different county, (mental health care will differ from trust to trust) I spent over an hour talking to the woman about my issues, I even told her about my blog and how it had dramatically changed my outlook and was helping immensely. I told her about some very specific issues which where causing me stress at the time, which had absolutely nothing to do with my body or confidence, she nodded, made notes and said she would call when she the details of possible treatments. I was expecting maybe some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or some counselling. A week later, she called me and said she had the details of a self esteem and body confidence class she thought would be helpful for me because what she got from the session was that I had image problems... WOW, she could not have got it more wrong, that was the one thing at the time I was okay with and completely happy and confident about, for the first time in my life in fact. I am convinced she took one look at me, closed her ears and wrote 'fatty bum bum' on her note pad.

So there you have it, all those years I spent hiding in my fort, pretending I was okay because I was scared, but there's only so long you can hide. And for me, the time had come to try and seek help. It wasn't easy, I had to persevere until I found something that worked for me and until I found someone who would listen, but I have hopefully got something more solid in place now.

I had an appointment with the consultant who asked me lots of questions, which might seem silly or scary, but I knew I had to answer them as honestly as I could so he could begin to understand me and what kind of help would be the best. In the end we settled on drug therapy along with the support of a care coordinator, who will be my first point of contact should I need him. I have been on a gradual course of Carbamazepine, a mood stabiliser, which I've built up to full dosage over 3 weeks and Venlafaxine which is an antidepressant.

I was very nauseous the first week and I had zero appetite, I had trouble sleeping too. The second week, in which my evening dose was doubled, was the exact opposite as I was very sleepy and got a good nights sleep for the first time in over five years (!), and I'm currently in week three, where I'm double dosage both morning and evening. I'm still sleeping well which is great but I'm a bit nauseous again and lacking in energy, feeling a little spaced out. I'm hoping this will pass after a few weeks, either that or this is what relaxed feels like? I don't know!

I just wanted to thank you all again for your lovely messages and support. I want to try and keep the dialogue open and honest as possible and wanted to reinforce this is only my experience. Anybody experiencing issues around mental health will have their own unique experience and how they deal with that is down to them and they should be treated with kindness, tolerance and love. We all seek help when we're ready, an sometimes we just want someone to tell us everything is going to be okay.

I know I'm on a life long journey (ick, I hate that word) now and that this particular treatment might not always work for me, and I could quite easily slip into the darkness again, but I will keep on keeping on and remembering to breathe, and hope for the best possible ride.

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  1. Wow Becky, you have been put through the wringer haven't you. And with a bi-polar diagnosis aswell. Its shocking that you were just left to get on with it. Your bad experiences should have been followed up by them to see why you didn't continue.
    I have depression and anxiety, all started 11 years ago when I broke my back. Luckily I didn't end in a wheelchair but started the cycle. I've had a few cycles of different counselling, I am still here, husband left a year ago and my only child went to uni in September. I'm on 14 different drugs for pain and depression etc. I'm 50 in January.
    Keep writing your inspirational pieces, they are fab. X

  2. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you are an incredible human. xxx

  3. Becky, thanks for sharing, as you say it's so important for people to be open about MH issues, I really appreciate that you're doing this. I really hope that you adjust to the meds over the next few weeks as feeling spaced out isn't exactly fun. But it must have been wonderful to get a good night's sleep for the first time for ages.

    I've had to drop back down my dose of ADs as I just haven't been sleeping for three weeks. I'm hoping that having got over the season change by going up, I won't be too badly affected by dropping back, but have to admit, I've done this without seeing the GP as I really don't like her very much (my favourite MH GP left last year as she hated what the govt was doing to GP practice).

  4. You are wonderful and I love you immensely. I'm so proud of you for sharing this, it's really not an easy thing to do. xxx

  5. I understand. After many years of anguish and problems as a young child on into Adulthood,Finally had the courage and support of my Family to get much needed help. I have Bipolar...ADHD..ocd. Can't begin to explain what problems
    in relationships and learning this has caused me. Thank you for sharing Swetie...Julia Perez US. xoxoxo

  6. I've been reading your blog for a couple of years, never commented before but you've been an inspiration to me, you've helped me on my continuing journey to accepting and loving myself - I wish you all the very best for the future x

  7. Hi Becky,thank you for such an honest post. It's hard enough just being a human and getting on with the business of living without all the struggles you've had to deal with. You have my respect and awe.
    My husband takes venlafaxine,he finds that he gets half an hour of feeling sick about 45 minutes after his dose but then it settles down.
    Lots of love to you and yours xxxx

  8. Hi Becky,thank you for such an honest post. It's hard enough just being a human and getting on with the business of living without all the struggles you've had to deal with. You have my respect and awe.
    My husband takes venlafaxine,he finds that he gets half an hour of feeling sick about 45 minutes after his dose but then it settles down.
    Lots of love to you and yours xxxx


Thank you for your comment, I love reading what everyone has to say! B x

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