WHERE do you turn if you are suffering with mental health problems? Here, one woman from the Cardigan area reveals how her mental health has affected her and her struggle to access support and treatment.

She hopes that by speaking out and highlighting the issues she faces that things may improve and others in a similar situation will feel they are not alone and will keep going back until they get the help they need.

‘SO here I find myself writing about how failed I feel by the system.

I think that it is not only shocking how our mental health system is failing so many but also sad and very scary.

I live in an area where I know of many suicides and also at very low ages. It is both sad and very upsetting but I do wonder with the right help, if there was more help and more decent support, many people could be saved.

I have suffered with anxiety for many years now and lately depression on top. For a long time I tried to do it without medication and doing all the things that they say are right such as good diet, exercise, having friends around me, fresh air etc. and various counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) courses.

The end of the year 2018 I went downhill a lot. I have in the past but have always managed to push past it but this time is was different, I stayed down, my anxiety was through the roof and I was starting to feel very depressed.

I visited my doctors often. In the end they decided it was probably best that I go on some medication. I have always disagreed with this kind of medication but this time I had tried everything and was at an all-time low so I gave in.

There were many side-effects to this medication and I had many friends telling me not to as the thing that the doctors forget to tell you is that some of these medicines can be extremely hard to come off.

Anyway I went ahead with starting them and was soon upping my dose, I had the most common side effects - the aching legs, feeling sick, heart palpitations, headaches, heck I even slept the first few days but anything to get me feeling better.

I then started feeling really down and like I couldn’t cope and thinking suicidal thoughts which I read was also one of the side effects. One day I felt that it was just too much I couldn’t cope with this constant feeling of panic, despair and disorientation.

It was horrible so I rang my doctors like I was told to, I said I felt that I really couldn’t cope right now, I was told by the receptionist ‘There are no doctors available. Sorry, call back tomorrow’.

What? So I’m on the edge and they want me to just hang on. The next day I rang back and they said that I would be placed on the doctor’s waiting list for a call back. I waited all day and nothing.

The next day I finally had a call. Three days they left me in a suicidal state, no offer of any numbers to contact for help or advice, no emergency appointment , just left in my own head , struggling and waiting for that call.

I had also been seeing a CBT counsellor prior to this. This was through the doctors and although it was only for a few sessions that they allow - if I remember rightly six to eight sessions - it had helped me so much.

The lady was really good and I had really starting making some progress. One week I turned up to my appointment and was told she was not in so I rang the office number. I was then told she was off sick so had to cancel and they must have forgotten to send a letter out to me.

Great, so I had come all the way into town for nothing. I was then later informed that she was off long-term and no one to replace her so my sessions had stopped.

I was left just like that. No more sessions, no end to the therapy I was having and when I rang them to ask for help I was told: ‘Sorry we have nothing to offer you in that area anymore’.

This really hit me hard I started thinking there was no way out of how I was feeling - no support , no help and no end to this constant despair, panic, petrified , disorientated feelings and I just wanted it all to stop.

When I finally got my appointment with the doctor, he was great. The doctor wouldn’t allow me to have any diazepam which I was hoping for because that was the only other way I could see to make this feeling stop other than suicide.

I had never taken them before but was given a pack years ago which just knowing were in my bag helped so much, knowing there could be an escape from my head and the hell inside me, but these were now extremely out of date.

Even though I was disappointed I understood his reasons and was just going to have to rely on the old pack to get me through as I knew this hell would still be there waiting for me every day when I woke up!

My doctor did say these words which have always stuck in my head and that I have hung on to … “I will help you; I will help you get through this.” So we upped my tablets to the maximum dose and away I went.

The weeks went by and although this medication had helped me a lot I was still not great, I started to miss important hospital appointments, which I couldn’t get to due to my panic attacks and anxiety.

I was not able to get up early due to the sedative effects but was not allowed any other medication unless I started to come off these. No way was I going back to the place I was in before these meds. I mean I’m bad now but how I was before this was like living in some kind of hell so there was no way I was risking that.

I was told by someone on a Facebook self-help page, that in other countries they offer something called gene testing where they take a swap of saliva and test it with medication to see which is compatible with you.

Well, I’m not sure how true this is but brilliant what an amazing idea. When people are feeling at their worst and may possibly even feel suicidal, they then don’t have to mess about with trial and error on all these different medications , which nearly all have side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

So how come we don’t have this here in the UK and how come I can’t be offered this?

I then decided to pay for a private psychotherapist. Around this time I was also offered a place on an emotional coping skills course in a town miles from me.

Although very anxious I went to the initial group meeting about the course and when it would be starting etc. I was also at this time offered a place or a recovery toolkit course with women’s aid but was told I couldn’t attend both.

I chose to take the ECS course but later, due to my panic taking over, swapped to the recovery toolkit as that was the one in the town closest to me.

Although it was hard to get up and out of the house, I really enjoyed the recovery toolkit and got to meet new friends.

Another thing that I have been referred to that has been brilliant is the exercise referral program, which is amazing, so many various exercise classes with lots of support all the way through, Such a brilliant idea and so many brilliant choices.

I do struggle going to these classes because I am feeling very tired and panicky often but when I do get there the instructors are truly brilliant and let you go at your own pace with help and support all the way through.

I often use the internet for help whether it’s through Facebook groups or Google and one day I was flicking through and saw an article about ADHD in women.

I read it and did a little online questionnaire. It ended up saying that I scored highly and to speak to a medical professional. These findings interested me as I had always struggled in school as a child and I also have a child with ADHD.

It made me wonder what if my head races like this due to ADHD and needing ADHD medication rather than anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss this and the fact that I was still seriously struggling and that it was really taking over my life.

I was having to turn away work and struggled to do stuff with my child like taking him places , school meetings and watching his sports, all these things were just pushing me down lower and lower.

The doctor said that they don’t really refer for ADHD in adults as the professionals in charge of that department won’t take them on (I later found out that this may be due to the fact that there is a six- year waiting list).

The doctor said he would put in for a referral again for me, he also suggested that I tried to take Quetiapine on top of my Mirtazapine , I was so scared of taking any meds so adding another petrified me.

I didn’t rush into picking these tablets up but when I next went in for my Mirtazapine in the chemist I said I wasn’t sure if I was allowed the Quetiapine on repeat as I hadn’t started it yet , she said it was fine but that I also had some other tablets.

Other tablets? What were these? I asked what these other tablets were and they said that they were new tablets for helping calm you. Well geez, for someone who is scared of tablets, now here in front of me I have an extra two boxes I know nothing about.

The chemist advised that I rang my doctor to find out, which I did. They told me that they had been prescribed to me by the psychiatrist. Well the psychiatrist had not only never met me nor even spoken to me but I was told nothing about these new tablets, what they were or that I was even being put on them.

I nervously tried to look up and research these new tablets. I also now didn’t know which I should be starting as I had both these and the Quetiapine in my hands. To be honest I was getting totally confused and stressed out by it all.

I was asking friends that were nurses, they were unsure. I felt like I was hassling the doctors. The psychiatrist’s reception just said to start them and were really not much use. In the end one of my friends suggested speaking to the pharmacist as they know a lot about medication.

The lady was brilliant, took me into the little side room and helped me look up all these different tablets. She said I shouldn’t really be taking them all together. I then made a plan with her of which ones I should try taking, she eased my head loads. I started the Quetiapine as it seemed like the others were not a good combination with the meds I was already taking.

I tried the Quetiapine for a few months and as my anxiety had rocketed and I was struggling to leave the house even, I decided to come back off of them.

It is now Just over a week since I have stopped the Quetiapine but I have been at rock bottom for a good few weeks now, last Friday being the worst day of all.

I was totally freaking out, could not handle how I was feeling so again I rang for help , I started with the psychiatrist as I had been sent an appointment to see him. “Sorry he is away on leave for two weeks.“

I rang the doctors. I can’t be put on his list unless it is urgent. I said “Well, it is pretty urgent.”

I explained to both how bad I was feeling. I was put onto the doctor’s list to call back, I waited and waited and waited but nothing - the whole weekend and four more days of absolutely nothing.

I’m sick of feeling like a nuisance and I’m sick of feeling this way. And I’m pretty sure that a lot of people feeling this way would just give up right about now if not a lot soon and I know it is a thought that is crossing my mind a lot lately.

Wow - something that has happened in the last few days has been a great help. I received a phone call telling me that I have been rushed forward for CBT as apparently that fact that I have missed very import hospital appointments and due to my past health is a big red flag.

I very nervously went to my first session today and he was brilliant so fingers crossed that he can help me.

I can’t help but think though what about the people that don’t get rushed through that are left waiting and feeling how I have been. How do they cope or maybe that is the point - they can’t and end up taking their lives.