Day 82: Talk about your mental health issues

I don’t usually bring up my mental health issues in a regular conversation and I assume that probably most people don’t even know about them. With that said I’m not ashamed of them, it’s a sickness just as cancer is a sickness.  You can’t help it, you just have it. Even though the stigma of mental health issues has been reduced over the years, there are still some people who just don’t understand.

I’ve had anxiety since as far back as high school but at the time I didn’t recognize it nor was I able to label it. As I grew older it became more apparent and more challenging to work through.  It started off with changes being difficult to cope with.  It started to effect my work around 2003 when I was working with brain injured clients in a residential setting. The work was intensive and the clients were sometimes abusive verbally and physically. I got to the point where I felt like I just couldn’t handle it anymore and I knew I had to get out. I called my dad and fortunately he was understanding and agreed to give me enough money to cover my bills for a few months so I could quit my job, de-stress and look for a new one. I called it The summer of George (only my name instead of George Costanza’s name) I will be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me because from it I got a job making twice as much money, better health coverage and regular hours. My new job was great for awhile and suited me well.  I felt in control and happy but once I became settled any kind of change was difficult.  Once I was off on vacation and while I was gone there was a re-org and my desk was moved by someone else to another floor. When I heard I didn’t handle it well. I couldn’t go in to work because I was so anxious not knowing where my desk was, who sat beside me and that all of my things were not arranged how I wanted them. I called in sick for a few days and then one night went in to work after hours to see my desk and set it up how I needed it. My anxiety got progressively worse after that.  I would have panic attacks in the morning before work.  For those who don’t know panic attacks feel like, its like you’re really excited for something but you just can’t calm down.  Your heart races and your breathing becomes rapid. You feel out of control and like you’re going to die.  I used to curl up in the fetal position on the floor to try to make it all go away. After trying to deal with it on my own for awhile I went to the dr and was prescribed some pills that helped a lot. I also tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which was okay but I am a pretty self aware person and it wasn’t all that helpful for me.

Once I got my anxiety somewhat in order I noticed that I was starting to feel depressed.  My depression culminated to a peak about a year and a half ago when I ended up in the hospital. I felt worse then than I have ever felt before.  I was off work, I slept all the time and I had zero interest in doing anything. I didn’t even want to watch tv, I would just sit and literally do nothing. I saw a psychiatrist a few times and his positive words of wisdom were “don’t ever go below this dosage of pills, ever” and “This will probably be a seasonal thing for you and get worse every year”  Thanks Dr!

I know that there are certain things that make my anxiety and depression worse and they are: lack of sleep, stress, change and excessive alcohol consumption. Another huge effect is when I am too social.  I need time to myself and to not talk to anyone.  When I don’t get that I find it hard to cope. This is especially challenging given that most of my job is intensive one to one conversations and counselling. I think this was my problem today.  My weekend did not provide me much downtime and I suffered for it.  This morning I had a hard time getting out of bed.  I dragged myself to the shower and managed to wash my hair but once the shampoo was out all I could do was curl up in a ball in the bottom of the shower.  I was there for so long that my light which is on a motion sensor went off and I sat on the bottom of the tub in the dark. I called in sick.

I am always trying to find new ways to overcome my challenges but sometimes they get the better of me. Sometimes I just can’t do anything and I hate it.  I feel like this song sums me up well.  You put on a great fucking show for the camera but if you listen to the music its just a broken person.

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