Riding High

I’m still riding the high from being discharged from the hospital two days ago. It was my second stay in the psych ward – this time it was five weeks long.

It sure feels good to be out. When I went in, I was a trembling mess that could barely even talk in coherent sentences. Other than for food and hygiene, I didn’t leave my room. I hated myself for making my family and friends worry. I hated myself for taking up a spot in the medical system that I didn’t feel I deserved. I hated myself because this was the second time in the psych ward. I hated feeling like a burden to my wife, family, friends, nurses, aides, therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors. I hated myself because I felt like I was letting everyone down by needing to go back. I begged the nurses to not let me leave the ward because I was certain that if I got out, that would be the end of me.

I tell you, though – the staff in the psych ward I was in was phenomenal. After a lot of talking (and crying) to the nurses, a medication tweak, and a session with my therapist, I started to feel better. By the second week, I was attending groups. By the third week, I was spending time outside my room just because I could. By the fourth week, I was going on passes with my wife and having a good time. At the start of the fifth week, I was going to the gym, going on passes, and doing almost anything I could to get off the ward.

It was time to go home.

It’s only been two days, but I still feel better than I have in quite some time. I feel like I’ve managed to get my feet under me again and I can go back to working on getting better.

What caused this recent mental crisis? That’s a good question. The Christmas season is always stressful for me (as it is with a lot of people), and because of my illness, my wife and family had to change how they did Christmas for the first time in 17 years. I felt terribly guilty for that and was sure everyone was disappointed in me. That hung over me for weeks.

Another trigger was knowing how much the people I care for were changing their schedules and going out of their way to help me out. Lots of guilt there, too.

I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the insurance company called to interview me for my disability insurance. It was not an easy conversation. My wife had to step in several times to help me answer the questions. I was sure they didn’t believe us and couldn’t stop thinking that they’d cut off my support and my wife and I would be out on the street soon. I was winding up tighter and tighter.

The wheels finally came off when I was at an appointment with my therapist. I barely remember anything except falling apart and talking with my wife in the hall. My therapist wouldn’t let me leave her office until someone came to get me, and by the time my wife had arrived, she’d been in touch with my psychiatrist and he was getting ready to admit me.

I have little doubt that if my therapist had let me go, I wouldn’t be here to type this. So, Dr C, if you’re reading this – thank you a million times over.

But… with every up comes a down. I’m still waiting for that to happen. It won’t be another end-of-the-world down, but it’s coming. I need to keep positive and keep myself busy.

Stay safe!

First Post

I’ve tried starting this blog a couple of times now and haven’t had a lot of luck. I’m hoping this time I can stick to it, and try to treat it as something of a journal of sorts. Maybe someone else will see it and will understand it, or maybe someone will see it and see something of themselves reflected in it.

Around four years ago, a significant change in my life was the trigger for an exponential increase in the daily anxiety I felt. Originally, I was able to ignore it; later, I could no longer ignore it but was able to work through it. Eventually, I could no longer do even that and things reached the point where my family, friends, and co-workers were able to see that something was wrong.

I was slowly turning inward, unable to make decisions or handle any changes or disruptions to my schedule. The effort of pushing through the day was exhausting, leaving my wonderful and understanding wife to bear the brunt of my illness in the evenings. I couldn’t sleep and would lie awake in the dark, wondering if the chest pains and shortness of breath I was experiencing were a heart attack. I began having trouble doing anything without ritualizing things, like making sure doors were locked, the stove was turned off, or the different sets of keys were on particular hooks before I could go to bed.

I found it difficult, humiliating, and frightening to admit that I was no longer the person I was just a few years ago. My wife had been suggesting I see someone about it for a while; I finally agreed with her when things reached a breaking point a few months ago. After a couple of sessions with a therapist, I finally began to understand what was happening to me. Unfortunately, psychiatry was not my GP’s strong suit and what he prescribed made it almost impossible to sleep. Two months later, I ended up in the psychiatric ward after nearly committing suicide. I got out three months later with medication, some really good coping tools, and a diagnosis.

I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms.

It is hard to explain how difficult that is to type out. It would be so much easier if I could say that I had broken an arm or had a kidney stone or something like that. There’s a stigma around mental illness that makes it so hard to talk to people about it. Maybe it’s because of the way it’s portrayed in books, TV, and movies. Maybe it’s because it’s something that doesn’t show up on an x-ray or blood tests. Maybe it’s because it can happen to anyone and that frightens people. Maybe it’s because many people were brought up with the “can do” attitude that mutated into more of a “man up and walk it off, sissy” attitude. I don’t know.

Part of my therapy is to force myself to do something that I used to enjoy but no longer do because of my illness. Writing is one of those things. I hope that if you’re reading this and suffer from the same issues that you know that you’re not alone – what you’re feeling is not uncommon. It feels horrible, but you’re not alone. There are people and medicines that can help. You just need to gather up the courage to ask for help.

I guess I should just say one last thing. While I am suffering from mental illness, I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, physician, therapist, or have any knowledge whatsoever of evaluation or treatments. I am only writing out my experiences, so please, PLEASE do not take any of the information on this site as psychological or medical advice. I apologize for the boldface but it is very important that everyone understands that. No forum, chat room, or group of friends can take the place of a professional.

Stay Safe!