I didn’t want to write this. I never thought that I would be writing this. I can’t believe it got to this. I debated if I would, and ultimately I decided that the point of writing a mental health blog is being honest. I really haven’t received any negative feedback thus far, and honestly if I do, I really don’t give a crap. This is supposed to raise awareness and educate others. Negativity rarely results in anything positive, so I just kind of try to look ahead of it. Too much effort otherwise.
So, things started to get really bad for me. I knew I wasn’t doing well. I felt like the past couple years, I had been on an endless roller coaster with too many loops. But then it was just going downhill, steeper and steeper. From there I got on the crazy train. I’ll stop with the metaphors.
I felt like I was losing myself again. I was definitely slipping away. It is crazy how some habits can change when the depression really hits. For awhile, I was reading like I hadn’t in years; i.e., constantly. And I loved it. I love reading. But for so long I couldn’t bring myself to. I don’t know why. I just didn’t. So I was pretty happy about my reading again. Then it just dropped off. Too much work.
Soon, I didn’t want to do anything. My gym bag has sat on my work cabinet for three weeks. Haven’t gone once after work. Granted, I’ve been staying late at work, but there were times I still could have gone. The motivation and drive isn’t there. I have gotten TWO emails now from my gym about offering a free personal training session as a means to draw me back in. What does that tell you about my working out progress? Hint: Right now, it doesn’t exist.
Then it was going beyond apathy. I felt like my brain was going to explode from the overflow of thoughts. And that was just what was in my head on its own. There definitely have been some external reasons that contributed to this downward spiral. Throwing that into the mix didn’t help much either.
Even as I sit here, writing this, I feel like I’m just existing. I’m sad and I don’t know why. It is an exhausting process.
But over the last couple weeks, I cannot deny how bad it has gotten. I went almost a year without cutting. A year. That’s a long freaking time. And the one day, I don’t even remember what brought it on, I did it again. Same arm. Not far from that daisy tattoo. I did it a couple times after too. And now I’m stuck looking at another damn scar.
Maybe I should just get flowers all over that part of my arm. Half sleeve, elbow down. Flowers. That’s a conversation for another day.
I wasn’t sleeping well. I was sleeping all the time again, which I absolutely hate. It was never enough. I didn’t have much of an appetite either, and I didn’t care what I ate let alone being healthy. I ate because that’s what you’re supposed to do three times a day.
I am a mixture of feeling numb and being overcome with sadness. I just felt like shit. I didn’t have any drive for anything. I didn’t care about anything. Close to tears all the time. I have cried a lot recently, often without reason. I’m just there.
It was really started to impact me in many different ways. Work was one of them. I knew I wasn’t doing my best as much as I wanted to do my best. I was still trying but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. I knew I could do better. So I started to feel stress from that. And the anxiety kept building. It was damn near constant. Where before I wasn’t sleeping well, I was now sleeping deeper than I can ever remember. Sleep was the only time my overrun brain would shut off. But I was still tired.
And it kept getting worse. I was getting headaches and would sleep all day when I wasn’t working. I couldn’t think straight. My thoughts kept getting jumbled. I felt like my thoughts were a tangled mess. I just exist. I can’t fully explain how horrible I feel. I would fight against the urges to cut, and it was exhausting. Often, when I was both very anxious and upset these urges would pop up. It was like I was feeling too much, too intensely. Cutting was like I was releasing those emotions; it was almost calming when I couldn’t make sense of anything. Of course, there were times I would use it as punishment to myself too…for being me pretty much. When I didn’t reach the goals or standards I set for myself. I wasn’t meeting much of anything, so there were lots of failure thoughts going through my mind.
Then it came to a point where I was crying everyday at work and having anxiety attacks close to everyday. I think I hid it pretty well from the most part in my cube. I at least tried not to draw attention to myself.
One day, I had a full on panic attack at work. I felt like I had lost all control. I had reached a low point. I don’t know if it was my lowest point, but it was pretty freaking low. I had known for awhile I had to get back to therapy, but in a combination of just the busyness of life and dreading going back through the process of therapy, I hadn’t started that at all yet. I felt like I wanted to cry all the time (if I wasn’t already) or just felt like shit in general.
But that moment felt like the point of no return. I couldn’t do this on my own. I at least was able to recognize that I was going down a path that would get increasingly harder to come back from. I couldn’t control anything during that attack. Everything was going faster than I could process – my crying, breathing, heart rate, thoughts. It was all out of control. But in that moment, I recognized that it was beyond my control.
I started looking through our benefits. I needed something. Something had to change. A friend of mine recommended the employee assistance program, and I was lucky enough to get an appointment that day. I looked through other benefits. It did feel good to talk some of this out. I had kept a lot in. Even when I talked to my friends, it took me awhile to even bring it up. I was so afraid. I am always so afraid to confide anything specific to my mental illness. Once, I was told by a friend I cut for attention. To hear that from someone I considered family more than friend cut more than anything I had done to myself. It definitely made me wary.
We discussed different options. The next step was going to see my PCP, and I was lucky enough to schedule that for the next day.
After speaking with my PCP, we set up another set of next steps. We decided that I was going to take some time off from work. I was going to go on short term disability. I was going to find a therapist and a psychiatrist. I was going to take time to really work on myself and where I am and what I’m doing with life and where I’m going. This isn’t a way I want to live; chained by depression while simultaneously being pulled in every direction by anxiety.
I had held out hope for so long that I had really beaten this, and that wasn’t the case. I was just keeping afloat. And now I was struggling to keep my head above the water. Something needed to change. So that’s where I am now.
I feel really, really weird about the whole going on disability thing. I feel like every time I go out and do something fun, like going to a Halloween party with my friends or a Penn State football game, that I am going to feel guilty for not working. I think it is kind of hard because it is an invisible disability. You can’t see this injury. You can’t see the thoughts I struggle with or feel the weight of anxiety or the chest pain it causes. Although, some people have noticed that something is off with me lately. But to others, there doesn’t appear to be a damn thing wrong with me. I feel guilty for leaving my team at work. There’s definitely a lot of guilt in what I’m feeling. Does feeling happy and doing fun things mean I’m cured? Granted, I don’t even go out that much because it can overwhelm me. But should I feel guilty for going out? Do I turn into a recluse? I mean being a full recluse might be counterproductive. But there is a lot of guilt.
Then there is the question of why. Not so much why me? But why couldn’t I handle it? Why did I break? I felt like I mentally snapped in half. Definitely picking up the pieces right now. Weak. I fight with myself over that. There’s people going through the same, there’s people going through more, and they don’t break. Why did I break? It is very frustrating. I know that that’s not the case. But I mean, the depression and anxiety speak fairly negatively to me anyways so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that its telling me that I am weak. It is just very hard to tune out.
I am sure this will develop more once I start seeing my therapist, but I am tentatively putting together a plan of self care. One good thing is that my dad is home during the day – so I can’t just wallow. Some of those external issues won’t be factors when I’m not working, so my mind should be a little bit clearer to do things.
I am thinking about trying to find a regular yoga class once a week or so during the days. I am also thinking about setting aside some running time, most likely just once a week. I shouldn’t even say this but it is one of my goals to run a half marathon. Plantar fasciitis has ruined this plan before but I’m hoping maybe now I can prepare.
One of my problem is that I like to go all in at once. As in, when I start working out again, I need to five days a week. I need to start setting smaller goals for myself, something I talked about with employee assistance and will probably come up again with my therapist. So I am going to focus on slowly building up a routine of yoga and running. Good for the body and brain.
I am also, finally, going to freaking sit down and learn meditation. Again, my brain should be clearer and I will have time, so this is the opportunity to take it. Recently, I bought a couple of journals; one specifically for mindfulness/self-reflection and the other is writing prompts but there were a lot of self-related questions. I also want to just kind of start journaling for self care. Kind of in the vein of bullet journaling, but not as structured. Just kind of what is in my head. Some of that needs to come out and not stay in my head.
The goal of this time off is to build up self care habits. I am open to recommendations. I honestly wish I could take a couple days and go away or just go hiking or something. It is time to take time for me. I have a disease. Or two. But unfortunately mental illnesses are still severely misunderstood. And I’m sure there will be people who roll their eyes that I’m taking time off. But I have to believe that this is the best for me.
I don’t want to become a statistic. Mental health is not easy to treat. It is not easy to talk about. But you know what? No one knows my brain better than me. And pretty much I know that I need help and I can’t put it off any longer. I cannot get worse.
I really hate that I’m going to be on disability and taking time off from work. But I’m pretty sure deep down, in my heart (which I don’t believe is mentally ill), I know that this is what I have to do. I have to make this change.
There are days I am tired and continuing to fight seems impossible. But there is still part of me that is still fighting and will go down kicking and screaming. And that is the part that got me to get help. It’s just something I have to do I guess.
I see people say how they cured their mental illness without medication and it just takes good, hard work. I rank that up there with “why don’t you just relax?”/”you don’t have it that bad”/”be positive.” That’s not how it works. I’m passed that. I don’t even know if I was ever there.
For me, I know that my treatment and my way for beating this is a combination attack. I need medication. I hate it. Probably for no reason other than the stigma attached; I was never bothered about taking my inhaler when I was younger and had problems with asthma because that kept me breathing correctly and alive. Well, I know that the medication is the difference between me functioning or not. I also know that exercise is another component. Therapy. Writing. Meditation (most likely). Interaction and not isolating myself. Some of us aren’t lucky to have a magic bullet in our arsenal that gets the job done at once.
So, yeah, that’s where I am. A few more days of work and then I have some time off to get better. I hope I’m doing what is best for me and that this, well, works. If anyone else has some self-care suggestions, I’d love to hear. Thanks for listening.