I have only ever been to a psychologist’s office for myself once. I got a referral from my GP because I was having panic attacks. It was after the birth of my youngest, and my oldest had just been diagnosed as autistic. I had enrolled in a post-secondary program for early childhood education and I was just about to end my maternity leave and go back to work part-time at a call centre.
I didn’t actually get to see a psychologist that one time I went to try and heal my mental diseases. Instead, they assigned my case to a social work student. I only really remember one thing about that time, so I assume it is the reason there was never a second time. I remember telling her my story, and why I was there, and she sat there in awe with her mouth slightly open and her eyes wide. Once in a while she would utter a ‘wow’ or ‘that’s a lot to deal with for someone so young’ (I was 22ish at the time)
When I had finished telling the story, I got to the part about the panic attacks. They had started when my youngest was a baby, and although the first couple were super scary and almost psychotic breaks in reality… they were sporadic and irregular. Once I found out that what was happening to me was a panic attack and not a flashback, I was able to manage them without pharmaceutical or therapeutic assistance as I breathed out their course.
The panic attacks had become daily occurrences. It was interfering with my ability to do basic things like go to the grocery store with the babies. I would wait for a bus, and vertigo would overcome me. My knees would buckle and the air would get thin. They were infecting my life. I could no longer control them on my own, and needed help. Having been always wary of pharmaceuticals for mental health problems, I was hesitant to go that way, and was looking for some good ole-fashioned Freudian psychotherapy to help me rationalize, or think my way out of it.
She then explained to me some of the things she could, or couldn’t do, in the delivery of the kind of “treatment” I was looking for… but she did offer one piece of advice.
“You have to stop doing so much”
I remember getting really angry and defensive when she said that to me. The very thought of me dropping any of the things I was doing to better myself and my family felt like an attack. I remember starting to cry and saying, “that just isn’t an option”
Over and over again she tried to help me rationalize the decision to drop either school or work. And I resisted the whole way through.
I left. Went back to my GP a few days later and got some Ativan to manage the worst of the panic attacks while I continued to manage my very crazy and chaotic life.
Eventually, the panic attacks went away, and as I continued in my post-secondary education, I became stronger, and more confident in myself and my voice. The panic attacks left, but the anxiety and depression persisted.
I tell this story because I recently found myself being infected by mental health diseases which required me to seek out external help again… except I didn’t turn to Community Mental Health, or pharmaceutical solutions this time. I turned to my friends and family, who responded in ways that leave me feeling extremely blessed this Xmas season.
I’ve only just realized that I have depression. My ex-husband *suffered* from depression, which he has bravely and openly written about on his blog from time to time. My blues never seemed as debilitating as his, so I always chalked my sadness up to situations and circumstances. I felt like I had to have the strength for everyone, which often made it difficult for me to see when he had to have the strength for me too.
Generalized anxiety is pretty normal to me now, and I have come to view it as one of my survival mechanisms. It is my tell that something is wrong. I am regularly in a state of fight or flight. But constantly being in a state of alertness, ready for the world to fall apart at any moment, or for emergency to strike does not always feel so great.
Because I am someone who pays attention to things happening outside my own little world, I sometimes have the tendency to project that anxiety into my worldview on things.
Because I am also someone who has basically had to fight because flight wasn’t an option, I have had many battle wounds. I have come to learn and accept that, in general, my society isn’t designed for me and my family. The barriers in place for me to live one of those pre-packaged lifestyles are too great to overcome. So I spend my life fighting to make things as comfortable and good as I can for myself and my boys.
It gets tricky when the political becomes so personal. If I perceive injustice, I react emotionally. My brain fires up and I try to start connecting all the dots to figure out what the big picture is. I am rife with bias and opinions, and I hurt when I become aware of other people who are struggling to overcome barriers worse than ones I face with my family.
2016 was a rough year for a lot of people.
Which brings me to what, I suppose. is the purpose of this blog. A pep talk to myself, and all the others out there like me who feel that this world has gone sideways and is not made for them, to be strong and push through all of those things that are coming at us in 2017. Try hard to harness that anxiety you feel in the pit of your stomach and use it as the survival mechanism it is. Remember that it is there a reason for it and try not to let it debilitate you. Anxiety is caused by fear. And all your fears are lies.
There will be times that you don’t feel like you have the strength to carry on, and that’s OK. Just try to keep the people who will be strong for you close at hand. If you have strength to give people who don’t have it themselves, be close at hand for others who may need it.
Believe that better days are coming, live each day as if they are, and do your part to bring them about. Remember that it could always be worse, and that it is for a lot of other people out there. When your head is in a dark cloud it is difficult to see. Wait for the fog to clear and the light will shine even brighter than it seemed to the last time it shined.