Wow. It’s really been some time since I’ve written. A lot has happened. Some has been good. I started a really good job with really good pay. Some… not so much. I’ll be completely honest.
I’ve had a complete and total mental breakdown.
It wasn’t all at once. It was actually pretty gradual until it reached a certain point. It started with a random anxiety attack here, a brief moment of hopelessness there. Then, their frequency and intensity increased significantly. With them came irritation and frustration. It doesn’t take much to set me off into a rant. It takes even less to reduce me to tears.
I need help again. I know that I do, and I plan on getting it.
I’m not looking for sympathy. I don’t want anyone to tell me how sorry they are, or to call me “Poor Baby”. None of that is helpful, or even wanted. I want something totally different. I want empathy. I want someone to actually try, really try, to put themselves into my shoes.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I also want, and need, to rant a bit.
Our society is pretty messed up when it comes to mental illness. If someone has a stomach flu, they can be out of work for a few days with no questions asked. There may even be balloons, flowers, or a get well card waiting for them when they return. But, when someone is out due to mental illness and/or a mood disorder… eyes roll. Jokes are made behind their back. They’re greeted with frustration, exasperation, and their job may even be threatened. Employers have no problem adjusting a schedule for outpatient treatment for visible, physical issues. If you need therapy, on the other hand, you’re expected to schedule it on your days off.
Think I don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s an example.
A few years ago, I had my last (until now) breakdown. I didn’t try to harm myself, but knew that I was only a step away from doing so. I checked myself into a mental health unit. I had to call my boss daily to let her know I wasn’t going to be in. She asked every day when I’d be back, as if I were on vacation. “I don’t know” wasn’t a good enough answer. She wanted a concrete date. By the time I was discharged five days later, my job was threatened. I was written up for attendence. I was advised that making up each hour that I’d missed was mandatory. Negotiation was not an option. I worked over two weeks without a single day off just to keep from getting fired.
It was different when I had a neck injury.
Thanks to multiple car accidents, I ruptured a disk in my neck. Actually, ruptured is a kind word. That bastard blew up like it had been nuked. I was in agony. My right arm was useless, thanks to the contents of the disk sitting on the main nerve leading to it (which was also excrutiating). It was consistantly misdiagnosed for the first month. The same boss was the one who originally ordered me to go to the emergency room. Every day, she had kind words. She promised that my job was secure; and that my health was most important. Once I finally received an accurate diagnosis, I was advised that I could be out of work for up to a year. I had my sister drive me into work and gave my boss my two week’s notice. I also called her boss at home, sobbing as I left a voicemail advising him of what I was doing. My boss gave me a small note telling me how loved and appreciated I was in the office.
An hour after I got home and was situated as comfortably as possible on my futon, my boss called. Her boss had refused my resignation. I was being given a medical leave of absence up to one year. Her boss had confronted the site manager and fought to keep my job. I was to take care of myself, rest, and do what was necessary to heal. I went through my first surgery the next day, and returned three months later to a much warmer welcome than anticipated. I was only back for three weeks before the surgery failed. I was again promised that my job was safe, and told to care for myself. I had a spinal fusion and was out for another three months. Six months altogether. I returned to an even warmer welcome than before. I was given countless (careful) hugs. Some even had tears in their eyes. Coworkers told me that they had admired my strength.
I was working for the same company under the same bosses. There was only one big difference that changed how I was treated. One health issue was physical. The other was mental and emotional.
The brain is an organ. Just like any other organ, it can function improperly or fail. Why is this so hard to understand?
People don’t get it. Even the ones who think they do usually don’t. I hear it all the time. “I know exactly what depression is like. I get sad sometimes, too.” “I know what anxiety is like. Sometimes, I get scared; too.” No, no, NO. That is NOT depression and anxiety. Those are the normal emotions that I WISH I had.
So; what is it really like? I won’t speak for eveyone. Everyone’s symptoms are different. I will only speak about what it’s like for me.
You know how in cartoons they show a person’s thoughts as a devil on one side, and an angel on the other? Imagine having two devils and no angel. One is named Depression. The other is named Anxiety. Depression tends to be the sneakier of the two. He slowly drains the joy out of everything. You don’t FEEL depressed, at first. You mostly feel bored and numb. You don’t really do anything because nothing seems worth doing. You feel yourself becoming more and more drained of emotion. Believe it or not, the numbness gets pretty damn exhausting. Even the simplest tasks, like getting out of bed, seem like too much effort. Why bother, anyway? It’s not like it really matters all that much… Then, Depression becomes even more insidious; and, he moves in for the attack. “Aren’t you just pathetic… It’s not the TASK that’s worthless. YOU are worthless for not doing it,” he says. It starts as a little whisper that you can barely even notice. Then, it gets louder. And louder. And LOUDER. Soon, he’s SCREAMING at you. “YOU PATHETIC PIECE OF GARBAGE! YOU’RE NOT WORTH THE AIR YOU BREATHE! YOU ARE NOTHING TO ANYBODY!” You try to ignore him and block him out; but, that just makes him angrier and louder. “DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND HOW WORTHLESS YOU ARE? JUST DIE! NOBODY LOVES YOU, ANYWAY! HOW COULD ANYONE LOVE SOMEONE AS PATHETIC AND MISERABLE AS YOU! ALL YOU DO IS MAKE EVERYONE ELSE MISERABLE! THEY’RE BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU! DO THEM A FAVOR, AND JUST DIE!!!”
Meanwhile; his brother, Anxiety, also speaks to you. He tends to be a little more hyper. Depression takes breaks. Anxiety usually doesn’t. “Oh my god, something’s wrong with you. Like, REALLY wrong. Shit; can people see it? Oh my god, they probably can! All they have to do is look into your eyes! Oh god, your eyes! Don’t let them see it! DON’T LET THEM LOOK AT YOUR EYES! LOOK DOWN THEY CAN’T SEE YOUR EYES IF YOU LOOK DOWN! If they see it, they’ll know you’re messed up… Oh god; if they know you’re messed up, they’ll hate you! They’ll treat you bad! They’ll all make fun of you OH GOD THEY’RE PROBABLY ALREADY MAKING FUN OF YOU BEHIND YOUR BACK you can’t let them see you YOU CAN’T LET THEM SEE YOU THEY CAN’T HURT YOU IF THEY CAN’T SEE YOU they’ll see you if you go outside DON’T GO OUTSIDE your family can still see you and WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR ROOM THEY CAN SEE YOU AND THEY KNOW YOU’RE MESSED UP!!” And he repeats this over and over and over and faster and faster and FASTER. Soon, you can’t eat right. The stress upsets your stomach; maybe even gives you an ulcer. You’re scared to go to work. You’re scared to even go to the store. You can’t sleep, because Anxiety is running a race in your head; and, he wants to make sure you know it. Yet, despite the insomnia, you’re terrified of the thought of leaving your own bed.
Meanwhile, both are slowly chaining you down and paralyzing you. You have trouble thinking. You’ve gone from being mostly emotionless to overwhelmed with feeling; and none of it is good. You have trouble acting, because you’re having trouble making decisions. You see everyone around you living normal, happy lives; yet, you’re drowning in your own mind.
And no, I don’t actually hear voices. I want to make that clear. It’s just the best description I could come up with on two hours of sleep.
People think depression is just sadness, and anxiety is just being a little nervous. It’s not. Either one can keep a person from leaving their bed. The combination of the two is something that I don’t wish on anyone. Yet, if you try to explain it, it’s viewed as a character flaw instead of an illness. Countless studies have shown differences in the chemical and electrical patterns in the brains of those with mental illnesses and mood disorders compared to “normal” people, but it’s ignored; and, that ignorance is killing people. It also just flat out pisses me off. Examples, with my own commentary:
Everyone feels sad, sometimes. Yes; but, their sadness goes away. It doesn’t leave them curled up in bed, crying and wishing that they’d never been born.
Everyone gets scared/nervous sometimes. Does that fear border on paranoia? Are they afraid of leaving their bedroom because they may be judged, or just some general SOMETHING BAD MAY HAPPEN? No? Then, it’s really not the same.
I know EXACTLY how you feel. Ye-no. No human being has the ability to know exactly how another person feels.
Why do you have depression/anxiety? You don’t have anything to be depressed/anxious about! …Um; do you ask people why they have cancer? Juvenile diabetes? Brown hair, green eyes, <insert genetic trait here>? Oh; you don’t? Is it because it’s HEREDITARY? Guess what? My father and at least two out of three aunts on his side have all had depression. On my mom’s side… we won’t go there. That’s just messy. Mental illness and mood disorders have been PROVEN to have genetic components. But seriously; this is not only ignorant, but also VERY rude. Thanks for belittling me.
That bitch is crazy. She must be bipolar, or some shit. *sigh* Thanks for ignoring the multitudes of people with bipolar disorder that are taking medication, going to therapy, and leading productive lives…
Get over yourself. Um, get over YOURself; asshat.
It’s all in your head! I know, right? It’s almost like it’s an ILLNESS… that’s MENTAL…
Stop being so negative! You need to be more positive! You need to just snap out of it! OH MY GOD, WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?!? HOLY SHIT, I’M CURED!!! HALLELUJAH; CAN I GET AN AMEN? (No, ABSOLUTELY no sarcasm there…) Think of the PA system playing music (or Muzak… *shudder*) in a store. Even if I’m not consciously paying attention to it, IT’S STILL THERE. NO amount of distraction or trying to “snap out of it” will make it go away. It’s a little quieter, maybe; but, it’s still playing on an infinite loop.
Maybe if you didn’t wear black all the time, you wouldn’t be so depressed… Thanks, Mom. Actually; black is a powerful color to me. If anything, black clothing gives me the warm fuzzies (just ask my hubby) (Never mind… He just beta read this, and he agrees.).
It’s because of that music you listen to! Thanks again, Mom. Believe it or not, the music I listen to (mostly metal, industrial, and David Bowie; with tiny bits of techo and dubstep thrown in) is comforting to me. It reminds me that I’m not the only person to feel this way; and may not be as much of a freak as the depression tells me I am. Happy music, on the other hand, makes me feel more isolated. I can’t relate to most of it. It reminds me of how strange I actually am in the eyes of most people.
Except Magic Dance by David Bowie. That song is the shit.
Seriously; mental illness and mood disorders are NO JOKE. They are debilitating. They KILL. Unfortunately; only the flashy ones get attention. Someone has schizophrenia? Oh, poor thing! Let’s help! (And no; I’m not saying schizophrenia is not serious. It is.) Someone has depression? What a pathetic twat. They just CHOOSE to be miserable. You know what? I never CHOSE to be mentally and emotionally crippled; just as I didn’t CHOOSE to be diabetic. I WANT to be happy and productive. I PREFER the diabetes to the depression and the anxiety. I PREFER my migraines (which are mostly gone now due to my new daith piercing; but I digress…) If I was told that losing a hand or a leg or even going blind would cure my depression and anxiety… take my hand. Take my leg. Take my eyes. There’s prosthetics and service dogs and other assistance. With my depression and anxiety, there’s only two devils sitting on my shoulders; slowly destroying my mind.