The post below is a mental health related post that I shared on my Facebook timeline for my friends and family to read back in April of 2018. It is my first time talking about my health to people other than my husband and mental health professionals.
I decided to post it because I didn’t want to have to constantly hide it, and I decided to share it on my blog so that it might encourage someone else to talk about their own mental health.
Oh, and also because I want to help…
This post contains some extremely personal feelings, thoughts, and information. It is also a highly sensitive topic. Up until now, there are only two people that know the extent of what I’m fixing to discuss, as it relates to me — my husband, and a good friend of mine.
I was originally going to keep this private, mostly because it’s a difficult topic to discuss due to the stigma that is attached to it. However, as I’m going through it and know what it’s like, I want others to know that this is very real, that it can happen to any of us, and that it’s important to know that you aren’t alone.
For the last 10 or so years, I’ve been battling a severe mental disorder. I didn’t always know it, but one day, years ago, I got officially diagnosed with a mild case of depression. The psychiatrist wrote me a prescription but I never got it filled, mostly because I didn’t want to feel spaced or zoned out all the time, and without insurance, I knew the medication would be expensive.
My main coping mechanism was doing things on the computer, like website and graphic design, and when a friend introduced me to World of Warcraft about 7 or 8 years ago, playing that game was virtually all I did, all day every day. There would be times where I didn’t shower, brush my teeth, or brush my hair for a handful of days. I rarely left the house, not even to check the mail, and I neglected most household chores and regular, adult responsibilities, but gaming helped keep me grounded and my days bearable. It was an escape from the real world.
If the real world got to me, I would be irritable, moody, anxious, impulsive, financially irresponsible, and I would sometimes make risky decisions or engage in risky activities. I had insomnia, low or no self-esteem and self-worth, feelings of being trapped, and I withdrew and isolated myself a lot. Not all days were bad, though. Some days I could function just fine, and things seemed “normal.” But then the bad days came back, and they often hung around for a while until the good days made their way back.
Playing World of Warcraft and Call of Duty helped me immensely, and so I never regretted not filling my prescription for anti-depressants. But I should have. I also should have continued to see a psychiatrist, as what I had clearly wasn’t just a case of “mild depression.”
About a month ago (March), I was hospitalized for almost a week because of my mental health. Mostly because of frequent suicidal ideations and symptoms that were so intense and severe that I couldn’t function, including at work.
One morning, before my shift at work, I cried in the car the entire way there and in the break room as I waited to clock in. I had been having similar mornings for a couple of weeks, and I even cried uncontrollably at random times throughout one of my shifts. It ended up drawing the attention of two of my supervisors. But I felt like I had no choice but to deal with it because of the financial situation we were in. It was on that particular day, though, that I decided that I needed help more than I needed to worry about a job. More help than simple coping methods could provide.
Most of the symptoms were the same as they were when I was younger, but they were a lot worse. I lost interest in doing anything and everything, including my go-to coping method, gaming. My appetite significantly decreased, my energy level severely decreased, and my fatigue level significantly increased regardless of the amount of sleep I got. My anxiety level was high, and I did my best to avoid contact with people.
I always hated answering the question “How are you doing today?” I know that it’s just a pleasantry that people say to be kind and polite, but the acceptable answer is “I’m doing well. How are you?” Not “I feel terrible and I want to curl up in bed and stay there.” Most of the time, I always lie and say “I’m fine” in an attempt to be normal and to seem okay. I would always hope that, if I said it enough, I would really be fine one day.
I had hit the lowest point I had ever hit, but I knew that life wasn’t supposed to be so miserable to where I didn’t even want to exist to experience it anymore. And I knew what it would do to my husband and my family and friends if I acted on the frequent thoughts that I was having. So, one morning before my shift at the hospital, I decided to go to the ER department because I was still crying on a daily basis. I was also having suicidal thoughts again, which had been happening for 2-3 weeks prior. They admitted me for in-patient care, where I was monitored and put on medication for the first time.
On my way to the ER department, I felt shame and guilt, and I felt weak, in addition to the symptoms I was already feeling. I felt shame and guilt for even having those bad thoughts. After all, I have a wonderful husband and pets and family and friends and a car and a house, all of which not everyone is fortunate enough to have. I felt weak for not being able to handle things and situations that everyone else seemed to be able to handle and take care of.
Finding the courage to speak up
It took me a lot of courage to ask for help for my mental health, especially as I had to actually tell people what I was thinking and feeling. I mustered up the courage somehow, though, because I knew that if I didn’t speak up and ask for it, things could continue to get worse, which could lead to things escalating. I didn’t actually want to die, but like many people feel, I just felt like it needed to happen because of the burden I felt that I was, and because I felt like it was the only thing that would make the pain and other bad feelings go away.
I cried the first full day I was in the hospital, mostly because I missed my husband terribly and because I was worried that this would be yet another financial burden that was my fault. I was eventually able to open up to a few people that were there for treatment like I was, which made it easier, but it was still hard. Visiting hours are restricted, understandably so, and seeing my husband for only one day while I was there was extremely hard. I just had to keep telling myself that I was there for myself and to get better.
I spoke with nurses and a psychiatrist every day to track my progress with my medication and to ensure that I wasn’t having any bad symptoms. They had a routine in place so that it could help regulate everything, even down to our meals and group times. It helped me some, and my mental state improved enough to be discharged. I called and told my husband my discharge date and time as soon as I could, because I wanted nothing more than to be home with him and hopefully continue to get better.
Follow-up appointment for medication
Depending on what type of medication you’re prescribed, it can take one or two months for it to fully get in your system and to see significant improvements. I had my 4-week follow-up today and, unfortunately, the particular medication that I was prescribed has not been effective. In fact, the only thing it does do is give me constant headaches and migraines, and awful nightmares that make me not want to sleep at all.
I’m terrified of tornadoes, anything that would harm my husband or a friend or a family member or our pets, infidelity, and a number of other things. Most nights, I dream about one of them, and I wake up completely and entirely exhausted. In fact, just this morning I woke myself up by yelling. I had apparently started to yell something as I was dreaming, but instead of it being in my dream, I realized that I had just woken up.
For personal reasons, I will not disclose specifics, but something recently came up and my behavior escalated. In addition to the horrible, debilitating symptoms that I was already experiencing, my anxiety got 100% worse, I started experiencing paranoia, symptoms of PTSD, and I did something that I thought I would never be capable of doing — self-harm, two different times.
I thought I had hit my low point the day I went to the ER department at the hospital, but I was wrong. I’m not exactly sure if it is the medication that contributed, as sometimes a medication can have adverse affects and make things worse, which is one of the things they watch for during in-patient treatment hospital stays, or if it was solely the incident that set off something inside of me. Maybe both of them contributed. Regardless, I’ve taken the steps to ensure that I continue to get more help, which include regular, thorough follow-ups with a psychiatrist and an adjustment with medications.
It wasn’t all bad
Even though this is the absolute worst struggle I’ve ever had to go through, there are two good things that are coming from this. One, I will eventually find a medication that works for me so that my symptoms can finally be under some sort of control. Two, and most importantly, it has allowed me to become so much closer to my husband in a way that I wasn’t sure was possible. I’ve told him things and talked to him about things that I’ve never told anyone before, and he has done the same with me.
Like a lot of people, we have often gotten caught up in the regular routines of life and we forget to take time to connect with each other and nurture our marriage the way it needs to be nurtured. Being able to be completely open and honest with him, and him being able to do the same with me, has made me fall even more in love with him and it has made our marriage stronger than it ever has been.
So, while there’s a horrible storm that I’m trying to swim through, I know that my amazing husband is right there with me, like the calm and clear eye of the storm, so that I can continue swimming without drowning. And that is a priceless gift that I didn’t think I ever deserved.
Now that I have given you a peek into my complicated life, I feel like I need to say this in my closing. I’m not posting about this topic to worry anyone, and the absolute last reason I’m posting about this is to get attention. No one who has a mental health condition or disorder wants attention. In fact, it’s the absolute opposite thing that some people want, including me.
What I do want is to talk about it so that it can maybe help someone some day. Maybe you have similar symptoms, or maybe one of your friends or family members do. Like the case was with me, some people don’t even realize how bad it has gotten until things get substantially worse, and for some people, that may be too late.
If you see someone struggling, it’s worth mentioning to them so that they can get the help they need, whether it’s gaining a closer friend in you or a therapist or medication, or a combination of things. Even if it’s just a simple “Are you sure you’re okay? I’m starting to become a little worried about you. If you ever want to talk, text or call me any time,” when they say they’re “fine” when you can see that they clearly are not. Sometimes offering to be there whenever they need you is enough to make them feel valued and cared about.
If you made it through all of that, I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read it. I have a lot of my friends and family on my friend list and, honestly, I debated on whether or not I should even post something like this. It makes me feel extremely vulnerable, and it worries me what some of you may think of me after finding out about this. Despite that, I’m hoping that it sheds a little light on what living with a mental disorder is like, and that it is as real as any other health problem.
Certain diseases affect certain organs in the body, and mental health illnesses and disorders are no different. They are diseases that affect the brain, which is an organ in our body just like our heart or lungs or liver or kidneys. And yet, for some reason, there is still a stigma around mental disorders and mental health in general. Most people who don’t know much about them just assume that we can “snap out of” our symptoms or that “tomorrow will be a better day.” Those statements mean nothing to most people who have a mental disorder. Regardless, help is out there, and I hope that, by talking about it, it makes it easier for people to seek it out.
If any of you have any questions or would like some resources, feel free to get in touch with me.