My Mental Health Matters

I first started seeing a Psychiatrist after Hudson was born in 2016. On our six week check up with my Gynaecologist, he suggested that I see someone as I started showing signs of Post partum Depression. I had lost my mom 4 months prior to Hudson’s birth and Hudson’s birth itself was traumatic for me. For those of you who know the story, my water broke at 36 weeks and Hudson was born, and taken straight to the NICU. I left the hospital without my baby, and I can not tell you how traumatic that was. Mental health was not something that people talked about freely in 2016. It was almost always used as a word in jokes people would converse in “Didn’t you take your mad pills today? It made me feel that there was something wrong with me; and it brought up so many questions and memories; things that I have kept hidden for so long, because I did not want to be judged. It took me about 6 months after seeking help, to realise that my Mental Health Matters, and it starts with me. It starts with the words that so many of us, especially as women and mothers struggle with, ” I need help”. Those three words that in a split second can bring so much shame onto oneself, and to be honest at times makes you question your purpose.

About two weeks ago, it felt like my whole world was crumpling around me. I have to choose my words carefully, because I am not ready to share all of it, but its something that happened a few years ago, and I was too scared to seek help then. I think once you become a mother yourself you find that strength that you never thought you would have to face the trauma caused in your past. Remember when Robin Williams committed suicide, the whole world was in shock. How can this man who always portrayed these humorous characters, made people laugh and seemed so content and happy on the outside take his own life? The mind is a dark place, and it can get even darker when you are alone, when you feel alone. No one will ever understand it, unless they have been in your position. I knew that when I got to this part of my written piece, I would start feeling anxious, and my hands would start shaking. That word JUDGMENT. Will I be judged? will I be shunted? Would I be knocked down, for speaking out. Would my audience view me differently? After receiving so many beautiful messages, I knew what my purpose is and was. We all fall down sometimes, but it’s how we get up that matters the most. Mental health is just as important as your physical health. One message read ” I know I have to get help, but I am staying strong and keeping it together for my kids.” I can promise you, you think are being strong for them, but in time, you will become snappy and aggressive towards them. You will not notice it, but they will. Do not wait, ask for help. You children and family need you to be present. Another message read, ” Know that you will emerge the best version of yourself, on your journey of healing. I know this is the most difficult but most profound journey one can experience… don’t look at it as a failure or impediment, but rather an opportunity to reinvent yourself. That you are forced to sit down, examine and look at.. else you would have completely overlooked it.” I cried a lot reading these messages. There is so much hate and hurt in this world. Just as much as I wished to take it away from you, you too wished to take my burden away from me. I have such a strong and genuine tribe of incredible women surrounding me, and I will always be grateful for this. In the beginning of this year, I decided to do a social media detox. All accounts that I found toxic and that did not add value to my life, I unfollowed. I started following accounts that taught me about genuine self-love. I love food styling and started following more international pages, fashion and daily affirmations. I actually felt joy when going onto social media. I have said this so many times. Do not feel forced to follow someone, follow people because you enjoy being in their “company”.

Before I get into the details of my stay, I would just like to discuss the following symptoms of major depression. If you tick of 5 or more from the following list ; and you have been suffering from the following for 2 weeks and on most days, then you need to please promise me that you will seek help:

  1. Depressed mood or loss of interest
  2. Appetite. Either weight gain or weight loss
  3. Insomnia or hypersomnia
  4. Agitation or psychomotor retardation
  5. Tiredness and lack of energy
  6. Feeling worthless or feelings of excessive guilt
  7. Concentration difficulties
  8. Thoughts about death/suicide/ having a suicide plan

After a consultation with my Psychiatrist I was booked into a Mental Health Clinic. Only on recommendation from your Dr will you be allowed to be admitted. Please see the below:

West Beach Clinic in Blaauwberg

Claro Clinic in N1 City

Pines Clinic in Worcester

Tyger Valley Clinic in Tygervalley

Sereno Clinic in Paarl

Helderberg Clinic in Strand

Tijger Clinic in Loevenstein

Please also go to www.lifepathgroup.co.za

Prior to your admission you have to contact your Medical Aid for authorization. You are able to pack in your laptop, cellphone, snacks and drinks. Sharp objects are not allowed, and one of the helpers will go through your bag’s contents. But FIRST, you have to do a COVID test, and can I just say; the only way to describe it is that feeling of when your Gynaecologist has to feel if the baby is in the right position, or feel his/her head. It was so unpleasant, I really hope that I will not have to experience that anytime soon. The clinic hosts both males and females of all ages (16 years and up). Each room has four beds, two Tv’s (you will need your earphones) and air conditioner and an en suite bathroom that has a shower. The rooms and the en suite bathrooms are cleaned everyday. The hallways, the walls, everything gets cleaned daily. If you need your laundry to be washed, you can arrange it with reception. Clean bed linen will be given to you on a Friday, as well as clean towels. You are also assigned a locker with a key; given a hand and body towel and plastic hangers for your clothes. On my first day, there was one lady in my room, let’s call her Louise. She was so helpful and gave me a run down of how things work from day to day and that I can ask her anything if I am unsure. I was nervous and so anxious because I did not know what to expect. I was given a plastic file that had notes of all the do’s and don’t’s and a Clinic Therapy Programme . All the group sessions are presented by two Occupational Therapists. COVID protocols are strictly followed. You have to wear a mask whenever you leave your room. In the cafeteria only one person is allowed to sit at a table, and everything gets sanitised. A typical day would look like this:

  1. Wake up around 7:20 am and then you have to go and get your blood pressure taken. You are also able to collect your phone. The Nurse will normally ask you how you slept (you need to inform your Dr if you have trouble sleeping) and then she/he will ask you to give a score of how you feel between 1-10. Personally I was a 2 for the first two days that I was here. And that’s ok!
  2. Shower and get dressed. They announce the room numbers who can move to the cafeteria for breakfast. Today’s breakfast was an omelette, and they also serve different types of porridge and yoghurt. Coffee and tea is also served.
  3. Just before 09:00 phones are collected and the first life skills session starts. Each week has a different theme and discussion points. You also get notes that you can either paste in your notebook or keep in your file. Last week was about Stress and how to deal with it and this week the topic is about setting boundaries. This session is from 09:00-10:30. At first I thought the sessions would be like those you see on TV, everyone sits in a circle and you are forced to talk. It’s nothing like that. We always start with an ice breaker and that’s how you get to know the other patients as well.
  4. From 10:30-11:00 it is Tea Time
  5. From 11:00-12:00 second part of the life skills session.
  6. 12:00 Lunch is served
  7. On a Monday, Wednesday,Friday and Saturday, there is a craft session. During the week from 13:00-14:00 and Saturday’s at 09:00.
  8. On a Tuesday there’s drumming at 13:00-14:00 and Friday’s at 11:00.
  9. A 14:00 we have Free Time, where you can go outside for some fresh air, or go to your room.
  10. If you are a smoker, there is a dedicated smoking room, with only 3 people allowed at a time.
  11. At 14:15-14:35 is the Unwind Session. Each day a different technique is introduced , normally you take your pillow and blanket with you. It is a session where for 20 minutes you just lie completely still, relaxing each part of your body (listen to voice prompts- either from a recording or the Occupational Therapist. This is definitely something that I will continue doing. Once I have found some Apps, I will share it with you.
  12. Tea is served at 15:15. It is usually always accompanied with a sweet baked treat.
  13. The Gym (yes ladies and gents! ) opens up at 16:00-17:00.
  14. Cellphones can be collected at 16:30.
  15. Supper is served from 17:00. Again, rooms are called and social distancing needs to be adhered to. On your first day the kitchen staff will ask you, if you have any allergies.
  16. At 20:00, it is time to have your blood pressure taken.
  17. At 20:30, it is time to take your medication.
  18. At 21:00 cell phones and laptops have to be handed in.
  19. Staff check in on patients once every one-two hours, if you are not able to sleep, you have to alert them and they will give you something to take (that has been approved by your Dr).
  20. Because of COVID, there are no visiting hours, but if your family wants to drop off a care package or flowers, they are more than welcome to do so.
  21. Other things that are available to do when you have free time (you have to arrange with the nursing staff or occupational therapists beforehand include:

Word searches/cross word puzzles; Colouring pictures for adults, Knitting/Crochet; books; Wii Sport and Wii Resort; Puzzles, Chess, Domino’s.

The first weekend I was there, I cried a lot. Not because I was sad, but by how much love and support I was receiving from strangers. Benny (pseudonym) and I arrived on the same day. We were both scared and anxious the Monday we started, but we supported each other throughout. My room mate, Janice (pseudonym) also started her fitness journey just before she came to the clinic. We became gym partners and woke up at 5am every morning to work out and some evenings at 16:00 we would also go and gym. In the clinic, all of us became more than just a face. We knew each others names and we were each others strength. The nurses started joking by saying they will have to check our ID pictures when we leave just to make sure it is the same person. While at the clinic, you will have separate sessions with both your Psychiatrist and Psychologist either every day, or second day. All that matters is that you get the tools you need to face whatever lies beyond these walls. Was I a little bit anxious to come home, yes I was. While there I was not a label and not stigmatised. Beyond the walls of the Clinic Mental health is still not getting the recognition that it deserves. By writing this post I hope that it will give the strength to those, to say those three words “I need help” and my wish is that you do not think or feel less of yourself for doing so.

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3 thoughts on “My Mental Health Matters

  1. I spent 2 weeks, twice, between Nov 2020 and Jan 2021 in a psychiatric clinic, so I can totally relate. At the end it’s almost hard to leave the structure and routine and new friends who understand you. But each time I left a more stable person (inbetween my doctors messing with my meds to try help debilitating headaches was why I had to go the second time) and not happier – but you don’t go for happy – you go for healthy; for stability; to regain some sanity. And people won’t go cuz they’re scared of the place, of the people etc but they don’t know the relief they’re missing

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