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.