Mental Illness: The Full Time Job

I contemplated writing this for a long time. Not because I am ashamed,no none of that, but because I didn’t want to sound ungrateful or whiney. My anxiety told me an excessive amount of times that this might not be a bright idea. Clearly though, I am not the only one who struggles with mental illness, and I figured if my words can help one person, then that’s good enough for me.

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The Struggle is All Too Real

I struggled a really long time without medication. I listened to a lot of people who assumed a little bit of yoga and a good night’s sleep would get me on the road to recovery. All the lavender/chamomile tea in the fucking world couldn’t calm me down. I was stuck in this cycle where I panicked, I didn’t sleep, I snapped at everyone the next day, drank coffee to stay awake, went home, and hit reset on the WORST video game in the world: MY MIND. It was awful. Ever had a panic attack and cried in the middle of the street? It’s not a good time.

Anxiety also has this friend, Depression, and he can sense your brain’s vulnerability from 1,000 miles away. A super villain worse than Voldemort, and let’s face it, that guy is a DICK. When depression would hit me, the only place I wanted to be was in my bed with the blinds completely shut, and just let myself dissolve into pure darkness. I am not saying that to sound artsy, it’s the complete truth. There were many days where my boyfriend would come home to a completely dark apartment, and I would be sobbing in bed. Simple tasks like taking out the trash or taking the laundry downstairs to dry would feel like grand journeys. I would say “I don’t want to run into any neighbors.” The idea of seeing or having to speak to people terrified me. It was quite isolating and while I knew that, it didn’t do anything to get rid of that fear inside. 

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Gotta Get to Work

So you’re probably wondering how in the hell did I make money? For a long while I worked as a freelance writer. I worked from home, so I could schedule my tasks around my panic or my really shitty days. It was when I lost this opportunity that I hit rock bottom. I could no longer function properly. I cried and panicked practically everywhere I went. I had an extremely hard time dealing with simple tasks. I can’t really explain it. My brain just felt jumbled. You know when you put your headphones neatly into your bag, but the minute you go grab them they’re a tangled mess? That was my brain. I’d go to make breakfast and I would crumble. I would try to grasp onto any rational thought, but my brain was busy trying to untangle itself.

I finally went to the doctor. I have been on medication for almost a year now. Have things gotten easier? Definitely. Am I magically cured? Absolutely not. I have bad days, the problem with those bad days is the fact that I now work full time, and not from home. That freedom I once had to hit pause and nap for a bit because my brain couldn’t take it anymore? That’s gone. Sure it’s easier now that I am treating it, but I have bad days, and I have some rough days. The rough days are incredibly difficult for me. When you’re in an office environment, you don’t want people to see you with makeup stained tears streaking down your face. The Alice Cooper look works for one person…Alice Cooper.

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I currently work with some of the kindest and most understanding people I have encountered. One boss in particular is really good at listening when I am basically panicking and in tears. At this point hiding it when I feel anxious would mean hiding away in the bathroom for long stretches of time, and I am not ashamed of my mental illness. It is what it is. I am not weak because of it. I am much stronger for it. Yea I have days where I am plagued with crippling self doubt. I want to do the best I can at work, but anxiety will constantly whisper that my best isn’t good enough. 

How Do I Handle It?

Honestly, I am still trying to figure that out. I come home some days really mentally drained. I can’t lie and say it’s easy for me because it certainly isn’t. I always have the thought in the back of my mind that maybe people just think I am being dramatic, and that I don’t feel all that bad. But when my chest begins to feel like it is caving in and I want to scream or cry, I know what I feel is valid. How I deal with it shouldn’t be questioned, and I think every work place should be trained and informed on how to handle those of us who struggle on a daily basis. Maybe handle is the wrong word, all most of us really want is for people to just understand that this isn’t really under our control. So that’s why I am open about my mental illness with my employer. Understanding goes a long way, and can ease some of that anxiety we feel.

When I get home I just try to wind down as best as I can. For me it can be a nice bath, a good book, or just snuggling and watching tv. But I haven’t gotten to a point just yet where I have a good balance. I know that, and I am working towards bettering that. I know I can be too hard on myself, and that can spark a really awful cycle for me.

So maybe I’ve cried at work, and maybe I’ve had a panic attack, but I am moving forward every single day. Life is precious, I am aware of that now, and I have to keep it going.

 

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