“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a phrase that pops up on countless Instagram feeds.
And while the intention – aimed at helping us through the tough times and encouraging a positive mindset – is all well and good, it’s not always that easy, is it?
According to the Health and Safety Executive, 12.5 million working days are lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
Children, too, are struggling. Recent research from children’s charity the NSPCC, revealed that the number of kids and young people receiving help for anxiety has climbed by an astonishing 59 per cent in two years. Its Childline service delivered the equivalent of 38 counselling sessions a day in 2016/17, amounting to 13,746 over the year.
And while we’re often reminded that it’s good to talk; that a problem shared is a problem halved, engaging in a conversation with our nearest and dearest mightn’t always be comfortable. In fact, it can be a daunting prospect for those who are just about struggling to make it through the day.
When my physical health unexpectedly and spectacularly fell apart in 2015/2016 I was immensely frightened. Doctors couldn’t tell me why I was having life-threatening tongue swelling episodes almost every day or why my right foot stopped working.
Scared of setting off a reaction, I became afraid to eat. At the same time, I felt constantly fatigued with horrendous shooting pains all over my body. It took all of the little energy I had to work throughout the day to meet the mortgage payments before collapsing into bed at 7pm most evenings. My once sporty way of life disappeared in flash and I withdrew from social circles.
And while my friends worried about me, some just didn’t understand.
“Why don’t you just pay to see a doctor privately and get to the bottom of it?,” one suggested on a Whatsapp group. By this point, I was a good ten months in and had seen a number of different specialists who were none the wiser. Furthermore, this WAS an option I had previously investigated. After all, I’d been researching the hell out of it but various consultants explained the problem was so complicated it was unlikely I’d find a concrete answer.
“We haven’t seen you in ages,” commented another. “When can you drive over for a visit or come out for dinner?” At the time I was on really strong meds that caused drowsiness, my foot wasn’t working and I could only eat about eight ingredients. I hadn’t broadcasted this fact, though.
I couldn’t see the supposed silver lining
So I quietly withdrew from social media, group chats and life in general. As for talking to my family, I didn’t want to worry them. They were just as exhausted witnessing my reactions first hand. Despite the fact that I’m getting on a bit, my mum was worried sick when she saw me lying in the resuscitation ward connected to all sorts of tubes and drips with a lip the size of a golf ball.
She’d always viewed me as a strong, independent woman but as the months went on I began to crumble inside. Why couldn’t doctors tell me what was going on? Was I going to get better? At the time I couldn’t see the supposed silver lining that everyone talked about. I was worried things would continue on a downward trajectory.
One of my best friends sent a text. “I couldn’t deal with what you’ve been through. You’re coping so well, it’s amazing how much strength you have.” Those words were so very kind but I didn’t really believe them. Each night I’d weep into my pillow, more often than not waking at 3am with a pounding heart, unable to get back to sleep. I became fearful of the future and saw no way out of the deep, dark chasm that had swallowed me up.
Then I noticed a pattern. Every time I saw a hospital consultant they’d mention the word ‘anxiety’ in their notes to my GP. I’d never been anxious before. I just assumed that this was a normal reaction for anyone living with anaphylaxis-mimicking symptoms with no clear trigger. With hindsight being able to talk to an entirely independent health professional would have been an enormous support; even better if I could have done so from the comfort of my own home.
It’s a need Dr Saeema Ghafur has been quick to identify. The psychologist spent ten years working for the NHS in secondary care, community-based adult mental health services.
During her time she recognised a gap in the market for psychological therapy offered through live video calls so last Autumn she founded Psyma, an award-winning mental health mobile app that gives users access to an array of vetted and highly qualified psychologist and psychiatrists specialising in areas including post-natal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, panic, phobias and depression.
“I wanted to create a service that would help people overcome obstacles to accessing therapy and set up a flexible platform that would enable them to book a session with a therapist at a time that suited them,” Dr Ghafur explains.
The pay as you go Psyma service, which adheres to NICE guidelines and standards set out by regulatory bodies including the BPS and HCPC, is particularly suitable for mums without access to childcare who might be suffering from post-natal depression, those living in remote areas, busy professionals, people with mobility issues as well as those with mental health issues who simply cannot face leaving the house to make a face-to face-appointment with a therapist.
It’s very easy to use. Even a technophobe like me can operate it. You simply download the app, register your details and then scroll through the comprehensive bios of the psychologists or psychiatrists before making your selection.
You can then book a free initial 25-minute secure online video consultation with your favoured therapist. Booking is easy and the service is very flexible – in some cases, an appointment can be made within 24 hours.
There are no subscription fees or hidden costs. A 25-minute psychology session starts at £40, while 50 minutes is £75. Psychiatry services are priced at £60 for 25 minutes and £110 for 50 minutes. (The psychologists offer talking therapies to counsel patients, the psychiatrists prescribe medication).
According to Dr Ghafur, the telltale clues that you might need therapy are when things become difficult or start to impact on your quality of life and stop you doing the things you were able to do before. “Maybe you’re finding it difficult to sleep, or you no longer enjoy the things you used to,” she says. “Constant worry, increased negative thoughts, an inability to go to work and avoiding social situations are also signs.”
Interestingly, we are all well aware of the importance of taking care of our physical health through good diet and exercise but how often do we take a moment to check in with our brain?
Therapy is one way we can help care for the condition of our minds and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
*Psyma collaborated with Relax Ya Self To Health on this post.
For more information visit: https://www.psyma.co.uk/