On Sunday night I noticed some red blotches on my skin, pale in the middle and with raised edges my first thought was it must be an allergy. Only there is nothing new that would have provoked such a reaction so I moved onto hives maybe. Google is both a wonderful and a terrible thing.
Yesterday more marks were slowing appearing and early in the evening I suddenly felt so awful that I took myself off to bed. I was boiling hot, shaking and felt sick.
After a few hours I was so freaked out that I called my mum and asked her to make the hours drive to our house. Believe me when I say that I never ask for help unless I’m really scared.
I really wasn’t sure if I was having the mother of all panic attacks or if there was something really wrong. That’s one of the fun things about living with anxiety, you’re never quite sure what is real and what isn’t.
Mum arrived at ours at around 9pm, by which point I was feeling beside myself with guilt for dragging her here. I still felt odd but I calmed myself down enough to go to bed with the plan of making an emergency appointment with a GP as soon as I woke up.
I slept restlessly, spooked by not knowing whether something was wrong or if my mind was just playing tricks. I questioned everything, a strange sort of panic attack, a reaction to my higher dose medication, a random virus, a nervous breakdown?
It played on my mind until I sat in the doctors waiting room next to my mum for the first time in probably a decade.
After an hours wait I was finally called in. I explained briefly what had happened and was ushered over to stand in front of a bright lamp while the doctor looked at the marks on my neck.
“I can tell you what that is’ he said, ‘if you hadn’t mentioned Mirtazipine when you came in then I’d know exactly what that is.”
“I have more on my torso and legs” I said when he told me I could sit back down again. He sighed. “Well I need to see those too then don’t I?.”
He sat at his desk and flicked through the pages of his drugs guide until his finger landed on the appropriate one.
“No, no, I know what that is. Nothing to do with the tablets at all.” I explained again how I had felt yesterday and that if he really thought it was nothing to do with my tablets that I was relieved.
“You put two and two together and got seventeen” he said.
“Mertazipine doesn’t cause anything like that. Hang on, I’ll show you on Google what it is…”
“I know young women will look at themselves in the mirror with this rash and feel low because their appearance is affected. But I can assure you, it’s nothing. It will go away on its own. Don’t worry, it can’t be transmitted to anyone you sleep with, even though it looks like it could be”.
“But my other symptoms…? I felt so bad I…”
“Oh that’s something and nothing isn’t it. Silliness. Tell me, how are things? Is there a reason why you are on this medication?”
I explained about my PND, that no it wasn’t recent, yes I had been coming to the doctors frequently for the last year, that no, no real support has been offered.
“How have the health visitors helped you?”
By this point I was frustrated, exhausted and fed up of having to repeat over and over again how hard things have been.
“You see, the health visiting team are great. If there is a rabbit in the headlights they will rush to help. But sometimes if the little rabbit isn’t receptive of that help then it can be turned away, you see? Is there a reason why you don’t like your health visitor, why you don’t want them to help you?”
Stunned silence flooded the room.
“They have NEVER called me. Another doctor told them about everything and they have made no contact” I spat back.
“Are you sure, because the rabbit…Well, I don’t believe they wouldn’t offer any support”
Neither do I. It got worse.
“Now my wife had PND. TWICE. And I’ll tell you what I told her. You need to get out. You need to speak to other women in your situation, go to baby groups. Understand how others cope. Why don’t you do that?”
His poor, poor wife.
Again I went over how my anxiety has stopped me from attending so far, but that I know that it’s important and it is something I want to do.
“No one likes to sit with a miserable woman all day.”
My mouth opened and closed like a goldfish. This is the point where I wanted to leave, I just had to get out of the stuffy little room and away from his judgement. But I sat silently, needing him to tell me what this bloody rash was before I could leave.
“Women are liars.”
This is just getting better and better.
I choked on a reply that came out as a garbled ‘excuse me?!’
“Women are liars. They all are. I’m sorry but it’s true. You see someone in the street and say ‘oh how’s it going with the kids’ and they just say how marvellous it is.”
My mouth does some more mute open and closing.
There’s a marked difference between prolonged, severe depression and telling an acquaintance in the street that everything’s a-ok.
“I will go to baby groups as soon as I am able. I will” anything just to shut him up and give me a diagnosis.
“But what will you say when everyone there asks you why you have never been before?”
“Erm, the truth”
“Are you comfortable with the truth?”
“Well if for some reason I don’t want to share my personal problems then I will side step the question won’t I. All that matters is that I go, for me and for Beans”
“So say you say you’ve recently moved to the area, as an excuse, the normal question to follow is ‘where from?’, what will you say then?”
“Can you prescribe anything for my skin or…?”
“Yes, I’ll do that now. It’s just a common condition. Nothing at all. Life is the simple cause. You know you are on a very low dose of your meds anyway don’t you?”
I’m on the highest dose, but he persists that it is usually taken at more than three times that amount.
I somehow manage to move my shocked body off the chair and out into the relative sanity of the street outside, where every remark he made clumsily spills out of my mouth to my mum.
“I am not making this shit up, mum” I implore when she stares at me in shock.
The anger subsided and I remembered that I did actually still feel ill and that I am worried. I dug out the information leaflet that’s wedged between the blister packs of tablets that I no longer feel safe taking.
Four hours later, a conversation with NHSDirect, a mental health link worker and finally a duty care officer; I cannot tolerate the dose of medication that I have been given. It was increased too suddenly and has caused this reaction. I am being seen by the team tomorrow and am to go to A&E in the meantime if my temperature rises.
How hard does all of this have to be?