This week we’re meeting another very brave lady, Fiona. Fiona is a lovely lady and someone I am proud to count as a friend. She’s an inspiration to me and I’m sure her candid responses will help others on their journey.
So make yourself a cuppa, settle down and I’ll pass you over to Fiona to share her story and experiences with you.
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi, my name is Fiona Morgan and I have a few jobs. I am a deafblind guide communicator, a British Sign Language Facilitator in a college interpreting for deaf students and I am also a published author, as well as a wife and mum.
What is your diagnosis?
My diagnosis is Depression with Anxiety. I went many years with depression and anxiety without a diagnosis and it was only after the birth of my second child that I was diagnosis.
What is the day to day effect of your diagnosis? If you work is your employer aware and supportive?
With my depression I have good days and bad days, and some days that are not bad, but not brilliant. On a good day I am happy, I can see positives, feel ‘normal’ (even though I do not like that term) I can go to work and have a laugh, not get angry at the small things that annoy me, not cry and even feel quite good about my appearance and skills in BSL and writing. If it’s a really good day I can even think I might be winning at being a parent. On bad days, I can struggle to get off the couch, I go back to bed as soon as I can, I constantly think how rubbish I am at everything, how I must be an imposter at my work, in my writing, as a mum or a wife or a daughter, at life even. I have sat at the top of my stairs and thought about falling down them, just to get a break from everything, a break from the stress I feel pushing on me. I get angry and my emotions take over, I let the word ‘no’ come out of my mouth too much to my children, which brings on the guilt of being a bad mum. I feel like crying every second of every day. I see everything as negative, and too much to overcome. I don’t leave the house, or get dressed for that matter, and I am tired, so very, very tired. I feel like sleep is my only escape. On days that are not too bad but not brilliant, I bounce between all of the above.
With my anxiety my thoughts go round and round and round. ‘Did I upset that person because I didn’t answer their text/message on time?’ ‘Why isn’t that friend answering my message/got in contact for a while?’ ‘What have I done wrong?’ ‘Have I upset my husband?’ (ask husband what I have done wrong or if he is okay, repeat question every hour, 2-3 times an hour until there is something wrong… me asking the same question again and again). If my anxiety starts I sometimes can’t eat, or start to eat and then can’t finish, I have sometimes not been able to leave the house. I have verbally fought with myself to walk through the door and lock it behind me, only to unlock walk back through it and lock it behind me again. I didn’t leave the house with my youngest child on my own until they were 3 years of age, I couldn’t. I worry that I’m not enough, not good enough, not happy enough, not thin enough, not good looking enough, not a good worker, writer, just not enough. I even worry that my depression isn’t enough to be classed as depression! I can also feel my anxiety under my skin like a simmering pot, always there. not quite boiling, but not far off it. This happens if I am making myself do something I don’t like, going supermarket shopping for example, or if I’m out of my comfort zone like standing doing a book signing, talking in public, or meeting new people.
I had already been diagnosed with PND when I started my current guide communicator job and said at the interview that I was on medication, but seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and at the time I was, but it all crashed around when I stopped meds and I had to take time off, and go back on to my meds, but they were very good with me thankfully.
How do you manage your mental health? Are you medicated?
At the moment I am not medicated. I was on 200mg of Setraline daily, but came down and have been off of all meds for a few years now. That is not to say I don’t have times where I consider them again, and maybe at some point I will need them again, but at the moment I am coping. I try to do more positive thinking, more mindfulness, and be more grateful in my life. It took me a while to get into this way of thinking, and at my lowest I thought all of that was a load of rubbish! But, now, even if the only positive thing I am grateful for is I got up that day, or I brushed my teeth, then it is something that I can hold on to and think I did something. I have also come to realise that talking is a big help for me. Talking takes the power away from my worry and anxiety and makes it more manageable, especially if I talk to people who know how I feel, what I’m going through.
What does a bad patch/episode look like for you?
A bad patch will normally start with worry, the worry takes over and pulls me down, I feel things are dark. If I stop pushing myself to do more, I feel myself going down, feel the anger at little things take over, snapping at my kids, panic over things in the house not being done, but not having the energy to do them, I feel emotional constantly, and sleep, if and when I can.
What would you like friends or family to do to support you when you’re experiencing an episode?
This is hard as I don’t like asking for help, it’s no-one else’s problem but mine. Now the rational side of my brain knows this to be untrue, but my anxiety riddled side slaps that down, so, if they did see it happening I think I would like them to take me out of the house without the worry of money, listen to me, even between the lines, cuddle me (that’s a biggy), make me laugh, or at least try to. Sometimes I want to be left alone, but not entirely alone (I know), stay in the house and check on me. Then, there are times when I just don’t know what I want, or how to make it better, so it would be a case of trial and error or all of the above.
What, if any, are the positives of having your diagnosis?
A big positive for me is I understand what it is now and as I understand I can help my child who can struggle. I hope I can help others going through the same by saying ‘I know how that can feel’ and talking to them, letting them know they are not alone in this darkness, another positive from being through it all is I now know some of my triggers and know the signs of an episode, so a positive will be being able to spot it quicker and act quicker making the end sooner, or get on top before they start at all. I think overall one of the biggest positives that has come out of my depression is my books. I could feel the darkness coming over again and I knew I had to fight it. I felt stagnated and knew I had to push myself into something I was frightened to do, something I wanted to do, but would never do, something I wanted to do for me, not for my work or kids, or husband, or house, only for me. There were times during the process that I didn't think I could do it, there are still times like that and I have had two published, but I would remind myself the story was for no-one but me. I took it a step at a time, and got through it all.
Huge thanks to Fiona for taking part in What’s the Difference. We really hope that her story is helpful to you. Sadly Fiona doesn’t have a website I can share with you, but she does have something better, two published books, Free and What's Mine (which I am currently reading in my elusive spare time).
If you need help for yourself or for someone you care for, please contact any of the charities below: