Mental Health Matters: Nic Goddard

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One in four of us will be affected by mental health issues at some point in our lives.

This week, I talked with Claire Wortley from Morar about her website on mental health issues on which she documents her journey with mental wellbeing in the hopes of helping others.

Claire set up the site early in 2019 having never hosted a website before as she felt driven to share her story. www.moodsmedsandmiracles.com started at a high point in Claire’s 25-year battle with mental health issues as she was reducing her antidepressant medications and felt able to write about her experiences since she was first diagnosed with Post Natal Depression after the birth of her daughter.

Claire Wortley.

Claire’s struggles with mental health started with a four-month residential stay in a Mother and Baby unit shortly after the birth after her daughter. A combination of antidepressants and sleeping medication got Claire to what she described to me as ‘a safe point’.

She continued: ‘I felt able to leave the unit and moved in with my parents who supported me in learning how to be a mum. I had this idea of what motherhood might be like – filled with unconditional love, but the reality was a weight of responsibility and a level of anxiety which felt like being plugged in to the mains with 10,000 volts of electricity constantly running around my body.’

The years that followed had periods of settled times but also several low points of suicidal thoughts, various medications and a whole host of diagnoses, including low mood, depression and anxiety.

Claire explained: ‘I had so many labels I felt like someone had stuck post-it notes all
over me! That is only helpful if it leads to getting the right treatment.’

In Claire’s case that was a huge variety of doctor-prescribed medication, NHS therapies and “every self help book the bookshop could find me’, along with self hypnosis, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and the Linden Method treatment.

Claire reached crisis point after a marriage breakdown and ended up signed off work after what she termed her darkest times. Unable to sleep, she suffered daily panic attacks, finding herself rocking in a corner, crying on the floor and in a constant state of fear while her daughter slept.

The turning point came for Claire when she felt involved in her healing. She told me: ‘I spent a long time waiting to be saved, by meds or therapy. One day I realised no one would save me other than me. I had thought that I wanted to die but then I suddenly understood that what I actually wanted was for my pain to stop.

‘I had spent so much of my life just coping. I hate that word, ‘coping’. I realised I didn’t want to cope any more, I wanted to thrive. It gave me a fire in my belly to seize back control over my life and decide what was going to happen. To take responsibility for my life and my future.’

Claire’s website is a big part of that thriving future. In 2019 she decided to begin writing her story in a series of blog posts in which she charts her highs and lows over the years. She told me: ‘I felt drawn to doing it. It has been a cathartic and helpful process for me, helping to organise the mess of my memories and where I am right now. The site helps me to accept who I am and feel that what I have been through has some sort of purpose to it. I have this overflowing toolkit of wellbeing ideas from all I have been through and I want to share it. I love words and stories, and connecting with people. This is my story and who I am.’

During 2020 Claire has also started to record audio files of her posts, reading them aloud and uploading those to the website. She explained: ‘I love listening to audio books. They have helped me through some dark times but I also want people to understand I’m a real person and these are my real stories. Being able to listen to me speaking hopefully does that.’

It is clear that the biggest reason for setting up Moods, Meds and Miracles is for Claire herself. Despite, or maybe because of her battles, Claire is a proactive and inspirational woman. Brutally honest, passionate and filled with energy.

I leave you with Claire’s own summary of her aim: ‘Don’t be afraid of taking control of your own healing. By all means get help whether it is from therapy or meds, but don’t ever forget that you are a person who matters. Lots of mental health problems lie to you – depression tells you not to bother getting out of bed, anxiety nags at you for worrying too much. In the same way that we are all unique as human beings, so are our wellness formulas.’