On Tuesday 27th August I had an appointment with the mental health nurse at my surgery. It had taken about 6 weeks for that appointment to come through. The appointment wasn’t until 2:30pm and so I had all morning to worry about it. I felt that there was a lot of pressure on this appointment as I knew that the mental health nurse had the authority to refer me for help. I’m at a point in my recovery where I really want some help from professionals and so I knew whatever happened I had to make it to this appointment.
Throughout the morning my anxiety kept building but I tried my best to ignore it. Eventually it was time to leave and I was eager to just get it over with. I get incredibly anxious about sitting in the waiting room as I know how long you can be left waiting in a doctor’s surgery. Thankfully the nurse that I saw was conscious of how I might be feeling and she called me in on my appointment time. As I followed her into the room I knew that half of the battle was over, I was there and once we had a chat I would have some help in place.
What happened during the appointment?
I thought I would tell you how the appointment was structured in case anyone reading this has an appointment with a mental health nurse coming up. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked in that room but the nurse was lovely and I quickly felt comfortable in her presence.
The nurse asked me to tell her my history of mental health problems. I started at the beginning and told her how I struggled as a young child but didn’t understand what I was feeling. As I went through my mental health time line I explained how my mental health began to deteriorate during my Masters. The nurse told me that she had just completed her masters and she could understand why I had struggled. It was really nice to hear that she understood what I had gone through and that she could somewhat relate to me. I explained to the nurse about how catching the norovirus had affected my phobia of vomiting. I felt that she was really listening to me and was sympathetic. Even for mental health professionals I think emetophobia can be a difficult phobia to get their head around but I really felt that she understood and there was no judgment.
Once I had told the nurse my story she explained to me that she would now go through my options as to what help she would recommend, and between us we would decide the best route. She explained that she thinks I should be referred to primary care therapy, however it’s possible that I might be deemed too complicated for them and be further referred to secondary care therapy. We went online and completed my referral form during the appointment – I have an assessment phone call at the beginning of September. In addition to this the nurse has recommended that I see her for a few sessions every 6 weeks for psychotherapy. During these sessions we will consider mental health theories and she will implement different types of therapy. The nurse further explained that during her sessions we will take a holistic approach and also look at my lifestyle, diet, etc… This is something that I am very happy about as I am a strong believer that how you live your life and what you put into your body affects your mental health.
Finally, the nurse then broached the subject of medication. I believe that medication is right for some people and there is a time and a place for it. For me, I don’t believe medication is the best option for me. I can feel that I am slowly building my skills of coping with my anxiety and I want to continue with that. I’m scared that medication will give me a false sense of security and that when I come off of it I’ll take a few steps back again. Personally, I’d rather suffer a bit more at this stage of the recovery rather than take a step back when I think I’m ‘okay’.
If you’ve been medicated for anxiety then I would love to hear your experiences in the comments.
The nurse assured me that ultimately it is my decision and to take some time to think about it before discussing it with my doctor. If I’m honest I’m still thinking I’d rather stay away from medication.
The Next Stage
Once the nurse had given her advice and we had agreed that I would seek a referral for therapy, whilst also having some sessions with her, she began to talk through some theories with me. I’m going to do some research on these and I’ll share my findings with you.
Before the session ended we agreed that I would create a ‘kit’ to help me cope with my anxiety at the moment. She told me that right now my happiness and quality for life was paramount and that we had to find ways to cope with the physical aspect of my anxiety whilst we tackle the mental side.
My appointment lasted for an hour and it was so lovely to have someone listen to me who really understands what I’m going through. The nurse very much treated me as her equal and didn’t at all come across as condescending. She constantly reassured me that any decisions made inside that room would ultimately be mine to make. She gave me her professional opinion on a number of points and shared some of her experiences with me, which gave me comfort. It’s nice to hear someone else’s opinion sometimes when you’re so wrapped up in your own head.
Overall I was very impressed with my experience. I had an hour appointment and at no point did I feel rushed or like my problems didn’t matter. For anyone who is struggling I would suggest you talk to your doctor about seeing their mental health nurse.