It is Geek Mental Help Week and I have played with the idea of posting something personal, this doesn’t come easy for me but if it helps just one person then it will be a worthy endeavour.
I have never suffered from depression, I have been fortunate to avoid the black dog throughout my life but I have a very dear friend who has battled this beast and I have seen just how destructive it can be. Anyone who has to deal with this should know how amazing they are and they possess the mental fortitude I can only dream of.
It has always helped me that I’m very analytical and have made a big effort in my life to pursue rationalism and critical thinking as goals to help me improve my work and my life. This last year shook me up a bit though and I will take just a minute or two of your time to open up and share my story, mental health can come in all different flavours.
I started experiencing dizzy spells about a year ago, I assumed it was a combination of not looking after myself and the inevitable stress of running a small business, so I resolved to fix what I can. I gave up the booze in the week, ate better and started to swim everyday (well most days). I felt better in myself shedding a bit of weight, healthy living can be quite addictive which makes it quite a bit easier to stick to. Despite my efforts the dizziness was getting worse and I was also getting short of breath too.
My rationalism was starting to desert me a little at this point and my mind began racing to all kinds of conclusions, having never suffered from mental illness I was convincing myself it was something bad. A sensible person goes to the doctor at this point, I didn’t, I was scared and I didn’t want to hear bad news, instead I spent too long worrying about my family and how they would manage without me.
The issues came to a head shortly before a client meeting. It had been scheduled for a while and nothing to worry about, it was an existing client wanting to talk about additions to the site we’d built for them, just the kind of meeting I love. Ten minutes beforehand I was so short of breath, my head was spinning and all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner. I am very lucky to have Jo working with me, she took over the meeting and told me to “go and see the bloody doctor”.
I did that very day and the doctor was amazing. She did the routine checks (blood pressure etc.) then she put down the stethoscope and asked me about my life. After a few minutes of my rambling on about how much I love my life and how wonderful it is, she smiled and told me I was suffering from anxiety attacks.
“I’m not an anxious person” I said.
“That’s not how it works” was her reply.
This kind and understanding doctor had put my mind at ease, she told me that it often happens to “high functioning individuals” (I’ve decided this is a compliment and I’m sticking with it) but she would take some blood and run every test she can think of just to put my mind at ease. The tests were all clear and I had my diagnosis.
I still suffer from these attacks and quite often in client meetings, but I know what they are and I have coping techniques to deal with them, knowledge really is power.
Retrospectively I’m sure these runaway thoughts came from losing my Mum just a couple of years before to cancer. I watched a healthy, vibrant woman in her 50s go from diagnosis to dying within just a few short months, I was fortunate to be there to hold her hand and stroke her hair when her body finally gave up on her.
It was work that got me through this spell and my love of rationalism that will help me cope with these attacks.
Happy mental health x