World Mental Health Day
I’ve been off work for 4 weeks with anxiety and depression. It feels longer. It was so hard to walk away from my work, my job, my students but I literally couldn’t do my job. I couldn’t ‘perform’. I tell myself I tried, I did what you’re supposed to do, I opened up and I asked for help, but I feel like a failure and a ‘problem’. One of my worst fears, something I can’t face yet, is my struggle with being well enough to work. What if I can’t do my job anymore, what if I can’t do any job? My work has been my world. What will happen to me? What will happen to my home, to my family if I can’t work? How will I live off whatever benefits the government decides I might have? How will I pay my debts? How will I feed my dogs? All very normal worries everyone has but having a disability, like depression, is shameful, you feel less worthy. And it’s not like other illnesses, there are very few flowers, cards or well wishes. No cakes or soups or stews. There’s nothing but an embarrassed silence.
A bit too maudlin? Absolutely. Do I think that I have it worse than anyone else who’s just trying to get by? Sadly not. Every day I think about this and it makes me sad to think it’s likely to be true. Everyday I also think about my cousin Sam. What loosing him has done to my family and what he’s think of my maudlin. And I try to snap out of it and get on with it. Try to focus on helping others. I’m just terribly shit at it (sorry everyone).
Some days I stare at Facebook for hours, some days I leave the house, most days are spent in the company of my dogs and cats who help me to keep going. My Mum checks in on me and makes sure I get to my medical appointments. Mostly I wait for Ciarán to come home. I get lonely and I miss him, I’m very lucky to have our love and friendship.
I am feeling a bit better than I was. I feel strong enough to use the bus now and try to push myself to do things like see friends and visit the cinema. I even drive the car a bit now. I see my GP, I have a support group, I have a personal trainer, I have a nutritionalist. I’m very lucky. I don’t have a therapist because, nothing seems to work for me. I always say I’m very trying though!
The problem with depression is that it robs you of all of your energy, mental and physical. You can’t positively think yourself out of this one. Your self-esteem is rock bottom, your paranoia sets in so being with other people and interpreting their actions is difficult as it all has to go through this negative filter.
I’m also an introvert so whilst I love people, being with them takes my energy. I get very tired so need lots of time to recuperate after being with people. It’s not that I don’t love it, it’s just that it doesn’t come naturally to me. I like being alone, reading, listening to the radio, writing, crafting. I struggle to balance this with having friends, I love having friends, I miss my friends when they are not around, I wish I had more friends, I wish I had. the kind of friends you can actually Netflix and chill with, maybe buy dog accessories together, listen to some country music, make snacks and do some crafting.
Alas this is when anxiety strikes! Living with anxiety is sometimes worse than depression. You are constantly afraid, feeling as though something awful is happening. My anxiety makes me sweat, makes me nauseous, aggravates my IBS, makes me dizzy, stops me from being able to think straight, and yeah can make me hyperventilate and my heart beat fast upon occasion. I have been relatively well medicated for anxiety for many years so I don’t get the traditional hyperventilate and heart beat but I really can’t sleep. And then I can’t wake. And I have been known to abuse alcohol to escape this vicious cycle. It’s the only thing that shuts my brain up. It only makes things worse of course but. you have no idea how trapped I feel by my anxiety. Sometimes literally trapped in my house. Trapped in my bed. Trapped in a fat body. When you do go out, even with family and friends, you’re not sure what the appropriate action is, what to say, what to do. You feel like an idiot. You forget things a lot. You filter, a lot.
Your brain can lie to you. It’s terrifying. It’s isolating. It’s incredibly difficult to overcome. This has been a life-long struggle for me.
Good days and bad days. Lots of fears, small triumphs. Today felt like a good day to talk about them.
We need more research, more treatments, more funding, more awareness and understanding and more support for mental health issues.
And if you read up to here, thanks. I’m sure you’re already a mental health superhero #worldmentalhealthday
If you know someone who feels the same and/or you want to help, some excellent resources are:
Bring cake, bring chocolate, bring wine, bring whatever you want or nothing. Just be sure to bring yourself.