I was a bit of a strange kid. I’d always stay awake during trips in case something happened, I’d always be the designated driver, and when I was in university I’d always be the one who helped (and sometimes carried) the drunk people up to their dorm rooms and check in on them. It wasn’t fun but I always felt like I had to be the responsible person in the room.
Fast forward some years to when I started working in my current job. I was responsible for ensuring business continuity in the event of a disaster. Disaster planning became one of my specialties – at the time I didn’t realize it, but I was feeding my OCD and using it to help me be a better planner. Other people would send me their disaster recovery plans and I’d always find something that they’d missed, regardless of how unlikely it was.
Then, in 2012, management changed. I could no longer get spare parts for the equipment that I was responsible for and had to start cannibalizing redundant systems. Management didn’t seem to understand or care how important the systems were. I was starting to spin out of control, my OCD and anxiety opening the door to panic attacks and severe depression.
All along, J was trying to get me to go and see someone about what was going on. I was sure I could handle it myself – I figured all I needed to do was put my head down and work harder. I started getting headaches every day. I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. I was not pleasant to talk to. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t able to get angry anymore, I just felt dull irritation and resignation to everything.
J was very patient and supportive of me, and when I finally started to listen to her and looked around for a therapist, she was 150% onboard. My first session was very difficult. I wasn’t sure how things went, and to be honest, I wasn’t completely sure I needed to be there. It didn’t take long, though, for Dr C to figure out what was going on. My OCD had taken over and I was spiralling downwards like a bird with a broken wing. She suggested I speak with my GP about medications, which, while terrible at the time, paved the way for me to meet Dr W and get the proper medications.
Could I have avoided a lot of these problems and heartache if I’d just listened to J and went to a therapist before I was already in deep trouble? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is yes. Maybe not all of them, but it would have helped. Even just the grounding techniques that Dr C taught me were invaluable and, if I’d known them earlier, would have helped me tremendously at work. I don’t think I would have ended up in the psych ward twice, and, with luck, I wouldn’t have experienced suicidal ideations or auditory hallucinations.
I guess what I’m saying is that if you have family or friends who are worried about you, or you’re worried about yourself, don’t wait to see someone. There are resources out there you can access, people who want to help you, and people who are paid to help you. Don’t wait until you feel like there’s no way out or nobody who you can talk to. Millions of people experience the same feelings – you are not alone. Nip mental illness in the bud by talking to someone before things get out of control!