Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bell Let's Talk Day, Feb. 12, 2013

I don't talk much about my own mental health issues, or at least I haven't gone into much detail here. But, on the occasion of the 2013 Bell Let's Talk Day, I thought it would be a good idea to come clean, so to speak.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1996. I'd probably been dealing with depression for a lot of years before that, but it came to a head that year, and I got help. Therapy, medications, new medications (felt like I tried them all before I got the right one), and we got me back on track.  And I was in a great place for a long time. But 2012 really threw me for a loop, and neither my coping mechanisms nor my medications could keep me going. I had what I lovingly refer to as "my latest nervous breakdown."

In 1996 I had to take a leave from grad school. In 2012 I had to take a leave from work. I am not suicidal. Don't worry. Not even close. And I am a lot better now than I was in the fall. But anxiety has come to join my depression, and combined they make even everyday tasks sometimes completely overwhelming.

My concentration is shot. Simple tasks take me way too long to complete. My attention to detail also suffers, which is a big deal in my work life. My short term memory is severely affected. Every thing I do feels like a struggle. But then when I accomplish it, I feel like I've moved a mountain. My life is run by lists. When I can remember to make them. Mostly I have a list in my head, and everything has to be written on it - brush teeth, feed cat, turn on alarm when you leave. I need to work through my mental checklist constantly throughout the day to make sure nothing critical falls through the cracks. Things that used to be second nature have become stressful burdens. I often feel like I'm moving through jello trying to accomplish anything.

And distractedness? I think my son has ADHD?? I can't stay on any task for longer than a few minutes before jumping to something else, then another. It takes a while to get back and finish anything.

Deadlines render me motionless. I shut down in face of the pressure.

And some days it's just hard to get out of bed and face any of it.

My lovely, intelligent brain isn't well. And I'm fighting to fix that.  I am an accomplished, well-educated, productive member of society, with amazing family and friends. I am also one of the many faces of mental illness. You mostly wouldn't know anything was wrong, though you might very well notice that my response time to your request these days is slower than normal.  I am getting things done, but you are probably used to much more efficiency from me. I apologise for that.

Everything now just takes that much more effort.

But, I have tools in my aresenal. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are my friends. I have friends and family to whom I can reach out for help when needed. And things are getting better. I'll probably never be completely free of the specter of depression and anxiety, but I'll soon be back on track.  I just have to be aware, and I have to accept that this is something I must deal with.

This is my little contribution to today. By talking about mental illness and mental health, we can help to remove the stigma and fear, and this can only lead to better outcomes for those suffering from mental illness, and for their families.

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