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Without research, mental health treatments won't get better

An anonymous blogger describes her experience of depression and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and why research has to be part of the solution for tackling mental illness.

If there is no research then nothing ever changes for the better. 

My mother struggled with mental illness. If research hadn’t existed, then every woman who went through the same as my mother would have the same treatments she did, such as deep sleep therapy. Deep sleep therapy was controversial back then and it certainly isn’t done now.

And if no one had carried out research into adverse childhood experiences and established Complex PTSD I would still be feeling alone, wondering why I felt the way I did.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when my symptoms of depression and Complex PTSD first arose. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have them. The repeated traumatic events, characteristic of the condition, happened throughout my childhood. I’ve been looking for answers my whole life.

Seeking help

I was 27 when I first sought help, the counsellor I saw told me she thought I’d been depressed my whole life.

Looking back, I think the counsellor was probably telling me helpful things, but I was in an unhealthy relationship at the time and I don’t think I was ready to hear them. I stopped going after three sessions. 

It would be eight years before I went back to get more help. I was 35 with two children under five. Every morning, I would cry in the shower. My showers were getting longer and longer.

It helped me to hear another mother, at the day centre I went to with my children, say that she thought she needed to go back on antidepressants as she was getting snappy with her son. 

The trial-and-error approach to treatment

Doctors had offered me medication before when I had gone to them for help but I didn't want it, my mother had been on medication for my entire childhood and it hadn't made her any less scary. 

But I was crying every day and I was becoming more and more irritable with my children, so I decided to try antidepressants. It took several attempts for doctors to find one that worked for me. Some had horrible side-effects, one in particular gave me nightmares. We need to find ways to predict which medication is best for someone, so there’s not this trial-and-error approach to treatment, that’s where research can help. We are all individual, no one treatment suits everyone.

Depression seems to be separate from Complex PTSD. With PTSD, I experience emotional flashbacks, which are categorised by feelings of shame. They can be triggered by different events and I’m starting to learn what those triggers are. 

Learning to know my triggers

I know that asking for help can be a big trigger for me, I was triggered the other day when I wanted to ask the day centre if they could look after my children whilst I ran some errands.

Or it can be other people, simply being angry at something, not me. If my husband raises his voice, perhaps because traffic is bad or the wifi is slow, I will have a flashback which can paralyse me. Flashbacks leave me with intense feelings of shame and fear. Although these scenarios might not seem much to other people, it takes me a long time to recover from them.   

But there’s not enough help out there for people living with Complex PTSD. Where are the different treatments? We urgently need to find better support for people struggling with this condition.

Most of the GPs I’ve spoken to don’t know much about Complex PTSD or what to suggest. GPs cannot diagnose complex conditions, so people need to be referred to psychiatrists quicker. I’ve been passed around different charities, but I’ve not been offered any specific, concrete treatment. 

I hope in the future, we’ll have better understanding of the condition and know ways of treating it more effectively.

Research has achieved great things for mental health – but there’s still so much more to do.

Last updated: 19 February 2018

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