Life is not an American AA meeting. When you introduce yourself for the first time no one claps or gives you a supportive ‘well done you for making the first step’ nod, actually, there are precious few instances in real life where you will receive a positive reaction for announcing your MI to others.
Hello my name is … and I have …
Everywhere I go I see posters and adverts for inclusion. I see awareness raising and positive messages. I champion these movements but fail to apply the same pride or fight in my own life. I realised last week that I needed to change. I experienced a few ‘triggers’ and it has taken me ten days to do something about it.
Before I had a mental breakdown I was always fine. I was in a permanent state of ‘fine’ and now, once again I am (unfortunatly) fine. I think the definition of fine is drowning in misery, unable to quiet my mind and really the opposite of feeling good. Despite this I get on with life not realising that others do not experience what I do; this is the real struggle of living with a Mental Illness.
I find myself in quandary. Having recently begun a new role I had decided that I would remain anonymous by blending into the office space and revealing little about myself but three months later I realise I have a problem and that is what and how much of my life story do I tell?
My role is to interact with my colleagues. I distribute work and ensure deadlines are met, applying pressure for staff to complete their workload so I can compile figures for Senior Management on our departments effectiveness. It sounds boring but it is not, I have a great job. I am still a Manager but all the daily management stresses (lateness/whines/whinges) are for My Manager to deal with. Happy in my new role I received more positive news that I am being considered for my Master’s programme and should return to university (upon successful interview) in September – Brilliant! Instead of jumping for joy at news that I was performing well at work and would soon return to study I began to panic; not outwardly at first but in my own way, I ate haphazardly, I was confused, I stopped cleaning my bedroom (trigger), I became disorientated (trigger), I developed a pain in my side (TRIGGER!) and I could not sleep (!!!). I was forced to take a few days off from work to rest and recuperate. On my return my Manager wanted to speak with me as she was worried that I wanted to leave. I reassured her that I was ‘fine’ but she seemed not to believe me so I confided that I had a small cyst growing on my ovary, the news of which alarmed her. I apologised for being blasé but knowing that it would soon burst and the medical profession would do nothing about it is part of having Undiagnosis.
That was last week and the pain continued to rage on. I am quiet and lethargic. I am not my usual self. The pain in my side brings my mood down and I am continually asked if I am ok by colleagues. I went home on Monday and I thought about my situation. I have not taken mood enhancers or daily pain relief for almost two years… I used to take so many … should I go back on something? can I be trusted with stockpiles of meds again? Do I tell my Manager that I have a MI?
As my anxiety levels skyrocket I feel myself withdrawing with feelings of hopelessness washing over me, threatening to pull me down into the deep abyss. It takes all I have to stay afloat. I am not ashamed of feeling this way. As mentioned above not everyone feels like this so I need not struggle with stigma and caring what others think… then I decide to come clean!
Hello, I have a Mental Illness!
This also means I have a Beautiful and Wonderfully Complex Mind, Hormones that play to their own rhythm and an Abundance of Love and Respect for anyone who has the same. It does not often interrupt my day or make me irrational or hard to work with. It does occasionally make me emotional and anxious and I need more ‘time away’ from stressful situations then before BUT this is not a bad thing. I needed to slow down! I have always needed to slow down, put less pressure on myself, be less perfect… sound familiar?
Sometimes I wish for applaud, smiling eyes and welcoming nods but mostly I am proud of the small steps I make toward my own acceptance. Maybe I cannot stand and announce my MI to the world but then again, maybe one day I will