It may seem odd, but, despite the amazing response to my post about my trials of the last year and my efforts to get better, and how touched I was by the words that people shared, I had an awful week.
Tuesday was a day of emotion overload. A day when everything seemed to just be too much. It started in the morning as I was driving to a client office. It’s a horrible feeling when your emotions are so bare, but it is even worse when you are alone in a car. You can feel eyes on you, even though no one is actually looking at you because they are watching the road. You feel them, though. You feel them looking at you, their gaze roaming over your face, judging you for allowing those tears to slip silently and slowly down your trembling cheeks. You want to yell. Tell them all where to go. But you can’t, so you stare straight ahead and just try not to feel their judgement.
When I arrived at the client office, I had to call a counsellor. I needed someone to talk to in order to help me get functional for the day. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. What actually would have been wrong would be walking into the client’s office with my emotions so close to the surface. It would not have been a good situation.
Luckily, my company has an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. This allows me to call up and speak to a counsellor at any time of the day or night and discuss what’s going on, get things off my chest, etc. I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with the counsellor and was able to regulate my breathing and calm down sufficiently to go in and smile at everybody.
The rest of the week was similar, honestly, possibly with the exception of today. I felt like I was an exposed nerve most of the week – reacting to everything. I had some trouble focussing at work and ended up being way behind on my deadline. Last night (Thursday), it hit hard again.
Depression is like that. Sometimes it hits you like a wall, and other times you can feel the tide rising. Fairly frequently, my depression triggers my anxiety, which makes for a longer recovery. Again, I was in the car at the time of the episode. I’ve made no secret that last year was dreadful for me. Possibly the worst year of my life, because I pretty much lost everything. Losing everything was not the reason for the depression, but a consequence of it. I even lost myself pretty completely for a while. The reality of that, the reliving of a nightmare of a reality I lived before and the fear of what may come (that’s the anxiety talking) had me in a puddle. I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly, I thought I would break it or pull it off the column.
I told myself to breathe – “Get home and then you can let go, but hold it together for just a little while longer”. I got home safely, got into the apartment, and called a counsellor to help me calm down.
The biggest fear I have is not the possibility of reliving awful and difficult experiences from my life when I was younger, but falling back and needing to be admitted to the hospital again. I’ve come so far in the last year that it would be a long fall, and a huge hole out of which to climb. So I fight. I fight and I do not give in. Last year, I couldn’t reach out to people. The idea of picking up a phone and calling someone filled me with tremendous anxiety. This year, I pick up that phone and I ask for help. It’s a monumental difference. Last year, I wouldn’t have been able to talk to anyone. I would have simply clamped my mouth shut and let words flow through my brain looking for an escape, but unable to find one. This year, I can talk to strangers about what is happening to me – about everything I am going through.
Last year, the idea of telling anyone about how ill I was was terrifying. I imagined finding people distancing themselves from me, and people whispering behind my back. I imagined being essentially shunned and finding myself alone in a crowd, no one willing to talk or listen, no one wanting to be friends with someone who was so nuts he had to spend 2 weeks in the “psycho ward”. I imagined the people who did know what had happened spreading the news around, and losing every friend I had. Now? Well, now, I am not only able to talk about it, but I wrote a blog post telling everyone all about it. I wasn’t going to let my time in the hospital control me. I was not the hospital’s story – it is the other way around. The hospital is part of my story. It doesn’t control me, or make me feel shame, because I took control of that narrative. It felt good to do that, because I may have gone into that hospital broken, but I came out healing. No matter what anyone else thinks of that, I know it helped me, and I know I needed it, like many others do.
I’m proud of myself for wresting that control from my demons, because I am proving that, yes, I am a survivor. Yes, I am getting better. And last night, as my conversation with the counsellor drew to a close, she told me that I had a lot to be proud of, that reaching out was hard, and I have come an awful long way.
And you know what? I have. I have come a long way. No matter the size of the step forward that you take, you’re just that much closer to your goal. Some days, my steps might be like an old man shuffling along, and others, I may be more like a long jumper, but in the end, they are all moving me unfailingly closer to my goal – being healthy.