My Story……Living with a Mental Illness

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I have struggle with whether or not I should share my struggles with anxiety/depression. I have decided to be brave and share my story. My goal with talking about mental illnesses is to help break the stigma that there is towards mental illnesses. My hope with me sharing this is that it helps someone and if I manage to help one person then it will be all worth it.

I first notice some depression when I was a teenage but I didn’t really think much of it. I kinda of brushed it off as me just going through normal teenage things. I really started to notice in my early twenties how bad my depression really was. At the time I was going to school, working full-time and planning a wedding. It all got really overwhelming for me and I ended up slipping into a deep depression. I would spend most of my days on the couch unable to motivate myself to do anything. Having a shower was a chore. my fiancé at the time(now my ex) encouraged me to see the doctor. My doctor ended up putting me on anti-depressant pills, which didn’t help one bit. At one point my doctor had tried me on a wide range of different antipsychotic. I tried taking these meds for one day only. Why? I ended up being so drowsy that I spent the entire day sleeping only being able to wake up enough to eat a small amount of food. My doctors prescribe these to me thinking that I was bipolar – which wasn’t the case. She ended up recommending me to the mood disorders clinic. The wait list is incredibly long and could take up to 2 years to sit with one of the their doctors for half and hour. While I was on the wait list my symptoms got worse. It was to the point were I would lose touch with reality and try to hurt myself. I didn’t do this because I was suicidal I did it because all I wanted was to feel something anything was better than nothing. That’s the thing with depression sometimes is that you lose all feeling. You don’t feel pain, happiness or even sadness. It feels more like an emptiness that you are a shell of a person. Once I saw the doctor at the mood disorder clinic she ended up diagnosing me with borderline personality disorder. Which is what is now known as bipolar. I understood the borderline part because I do tend to keep people at a distance. It takes me a while to let people in. I ended up getting better slowly. The medication eventually started working and I was able to go back to work. Later on I would be told that I was miss diagnosed and that I had a generalized anxiety disorder.

I have found that as I have gotten older my depression has gone away and all that is left is anxiety which is a completely different beast. For those that don’t suffer from anxiety its like a never-ending movie that keeps replaying over and over in your mind. You over analyze everything to the point that you end up second guessing yourself. My anxiety began to creep back shortly after my ex asked for a divorce. It has been present ever since. There are days and times when I am able to control it. I tell myself that everything is going to be ok and it’s not as bad as I am making it out to be.

I recently took a 1 month leave of absence from work. Looking back on it my anxiety had been an issue for the last year and a half. I had symptoms that I ignored thinking that I had a handle on things when I didn’t. I would shake like a leaf at the slightest of confrontations. I had a lot going on with taking a college course, learning a new job, and trying to do my photography. The worst part of it was that I started to not sleep properly. The thing I have noticed is stress triggers my anxiety which then triggers fatigue because you don’t sleep. I ended up spending periods of the night lying awake worrying about things that I said or things that I couldn’t change and had no control over. Why do we do this to ourselves? In my case it’s because I have a mental illness and I am not afraid to own it anymore. I was so afraid to take a leave of absence as I was afraid I would be seen as weak. The moment I realized that I had to take a leave of absence was when I was at the cottage I looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I looked exhausted like I was fighting an internal battle with myself which I was. I had a lot of different symptoms the worst of which was the trouble concentrating and remembering things. I would talk with someone and instantly forget parts of the conversations. Once I finally went on my leave I had time to decompress. This allowed me to sleep and did I ever sleep. I had never felt so tired before. It took 2 weeks before I felt somewhat normal. While I was decompressing I hated leaving the house. I wanted to stay in my “safe” zone and not go out into the cruel world. I forced myself to leave the house even if it was just to get groceries.

My doctors recommend that I try taking medication again. Initially I fought going on the medication – my doctor told me that I couldn’t take a break from life which made me realize that I needed some help. The first medication started to help me until I had an allergic reaction to it.

Luckily I was able to find another medication that worked. I will say that the initial side effects of the medication can be difficult to live though but once you get though the side effects it is worth it. For the first week I was extremely agitated to the point that it felt like my skin was crawling.

I feel like my old self again. I have energy and my anxiety levels are almost nothing which is great! The medication helps with my anxiety but I have realized that I do need help with dealing with stress.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Whether that is asking a friend for help or asking your doctor. I have found that a lot of my friends are amazing and have offer to talk with me should I ever need it. I am lucky to have an amazing support system.

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