The last few months or so have been a little odd. For nearly two years I’ve done my best to put together weekly content for this site that I found relevant, helpful, or just plain fun for those that might trip across this little outpost of mine on the Internet. I’d like to think it’s because I’ve been able to tell some decent and unique stories that I was able to find a few different groups to work with that gave me the privilege to expand my reach through their readership. This also meant more work and more responsibility. I was keeping up a pace that, at times, even I thought was a little absurd and when combined with that whole day job part I just hit a bit of burn out. It happens to the best of us.
That being said, this isn’t about the last few months, this is about the last few days. For as long as I can remember, mental health has been a concern for me. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety attacks for about 20 years. I’ve been in and out of therapy for it throughout that time and learned many tips and tricks on how to deal with it and cope when I hit the rougher points until I can even myself out.
On Sunday I woke up with a jolt and my heart was racing. I didn’t recall any particular dream at the time that would trigger that and the night before had been a very casual Saturday night in with friends having a few drinks and watching some movies. My body was in knots for the better part of the day and all the plans I had for the day went out the window as I stayed in attempting to settle myself. I came to work on Monday as I typically would, but was noticeably off, not just to myself but also to coworkers. I looked and felt ill. Deciding that it would be better to be at home and not get anyone sick, I left after lunch so I could continue my tasks. It wasn’t until I crossed my threshold and sat down that I realized what was actually happening with me because suddenly I felt safe and settled, and that was when I clued into what was actually going on with me.
One of the things that people might not necessarily realize about anxiety attacks is that they don’t manifest the exact same way in all people. To say that I’m known for being pragmatic and methodical when it comes to how I process information and then react to that information is putting it mildly. In most cases I don’t get into an anxiety attack and find myself actually feeling panicked to the point of feeling jittery and overly anxious as though I’m waiting for some big decision to come. What more often happens with me is that I lose the ability to process information successfully because my brain starts to scramble all the information being presented to me along with the trigger and resulting issues. This means that I’ll attempt to rush through it all, process it, and react so that I can return to a point where I’m not affected by that piece information any longer and just attempting to return to managing the issues from the anxiety. So while I might not physically curl into the fetal position in an attempt to protect myself, I will do so mentally – even if I don’t realize it’s happening.
This means that snap judgments and poor choices are likely to result. It particularly means that dealing with people and personalities successfully in a stressful work environment becomes nearly impossible. The simplest task takes more mental capacity in order to battle through the chaos that’s already rattling around. I work in a relatively stressful environment, it is deadline driven with multiple people pulling in different directions, but it’s not like I have the codes to nuclear arms at my disposal. It’s a pretty typical managerial position with typical managerial stress. But losing the ability to rationalize those decisions and process information correctly while knowing that it’s a situation you’ve handled appropriately dozens of time before becomes completely disheartening and depressing. That’s where the spiral begins.
Depression begets worry begets anxiety begets uncontrolled misstep (no matter how minor) begets depression. That spiral can take a lot of out a person, and it takes even more to get out of it. You have to be willing to face it, not avoid it, and you have to know when you’ve hit your limits and need to ask for help. You don’t have to do it alone. There are literally millions of people out there that understand what it feels like to be buried under the weight of their own minds pressing down on them. They have continually shown that they will stand together with others to help them through their struggles.
Sometimes we get so preoccupied with what’s going on in our own lives that we miss the signals when something is starting to go wrong. Having those standing with us to help as we look to move past those times when we didn’t see it coming is vital. Therapy and medication are tools that help people every single day learn how to identify, cope, and make it through their own battles. These are the weapons that people can be armed with to handle their own battles.
I’ve been trained to identify what my triggers are, to notice when I’m heading down a path to self-destruction, and to know when I’ve hit my limits. I’ve had wonderful therapists throughout my life that helped prepare me to deal with me when I end up becoming my own worst enemy. What has taken place this week has floored me and been a massive reminder that this is something we never “get over,” as some have told me during my life. This is something that is always there, something that must be maintained, something that must be watched, and something for which we must take care.
That being said, if you are someone that struggles with depression, anxiety, or any other medical issue that causes you to turn on yourself or others, pay heed to that last part – you must take care, of yourself, of your friends, of your family, and of each other.
I know that this will pass with effort, energy, and time. It can be a thing that passes for anyone that deals with the same problems so long as they put in the effort, energy, and time. It is a struggle and will always be a something that requires attention and work. You might feel isolated and alone in the matter, but in this day and age of digital access to people, you are never without support somewhere. You aren’t alone anymore, and so long as you are willing to ask for help when you need it, help will be given.
I’ll close by saying that I implore you, if you struggle with these kinds of issues to make sure you take care of yourself in the best possible way that you can, and know that there are people in the world that will always be there to help.