When I was growing up, I watched as my mom had trouble holding a job. She was quick to anger, quick to tears and in and out of the hospital for depression. I remember thinking to myself that she just wanted attention, and she just didn’t want to work.
Oh, how I regret those thoughts today. These thoughts that are shared by so many people out there that just do not understand what it is like to suffer from mental illness. The employer that doesn’t understand why you are missing time from work. The friends that think, all you want is to get attention when in fact, you often stay at home afraid to go out into public because you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
Mental illness is like a 4 letter word. Even saying it makes me cringe. Maybe its because I want to live in denial. I want to think that I can do it all. I want to think that I can live the way others do. Maybe it is because to most people, they don’t see that timid person on the inside that is barely holding it together. I don’t want to be labeled with mental illness.
Unfortunately, I have no choice. I have a mental illness and there is no escaping that fact. I have been on so many medications over the last 15 years that I can’t even remember anymore which I have tried and which I haven’t. I have tried talk therapy and things like meditation and acupuncture. I may have a good day, a good week or even good months but eventually the stress triggers in life inevitably knock me back on my ass at some point.
There are so many ways one can be effected, this is my story so I can only speak from my own experience and I really had to sit down and think about it because most of the time I cant put into words how it is for me to live with this disease.
Depression: I normally don’t really notice depression coming on until it is too late. It starts as just feeling more tired each day. I start sleeping more, taking naps when possible. I start to lose drive and excitement about things in my life. (of course at the time it seems like this is just because I’m tired) I get more emotional about stories I see or movies I watch. And then the slope starts to get a little slippery. I start to lose focus at my job and struggle through my work day. I start to feel inadequate at my job and in my life. I pull away from social situations and it becomes a chore to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone be a productive member of society. If I am lucky, things turn around before I get to the point where i need to hospitalize myself to ensure I don’t make any bad decisions.
Mania: My heart is racing, my head is racing. I get hyper focused on things. One month it could be coupons and the next it could be entering sweepstakes. I focus on these things to try to escape my extreme anxiety and agitation. I am so irritable and not fun to be around. During these times, I rarely feel like I could take on the world as some people with Mania have. I get very socially withdrawn because I am afraid of how my agitation will be perceived or even worse, afraid to have a panic attack and have nowhere to escape to.
And now add in the changing of the medications. Most medication have side effects. When I start taking a new medication I may be sent straight into Mania, feel sick or it just may take several weeks to see any effect at all. Withdrawals from medications can be a real nightmare too, making the room spin and making you extremely sick. Not many employers are thrilled to have you miss days, sometimes weeks of work while trying to get your medication adjusted properly.
for all of the above issues, I try to push through, to pull myself together and just get through the day especially when it comes to working. I start missing days because I cant function. I start dreading how I was going to respond to the stress of the day. More times than not, the stress of the job or just the stress of trying to hold it together while doing a job end up being more than I can handle. Eventually, I lose my job. ( Usually for missing too many days)
So no, I don’t want attention, please look the other way as I cry. Please don’t be offended that i cant go out with you or that I have to leave a social situation because it is too far out of my comfort zone. Please don’t judge me because I cant hold a job, I hate the fact that I feel like a burden on my family because I am not contributing financially
I did not write this to make you feel sorry for me in any way. I wrote this, one because I wanted a way to put all of my thoughts and feelings down and also because I am hoping that this might make you think twice before judging someone in your life that may be going through the same thing.
Oh, and If you ask what is wrong and we say we don’t know, through tear-streaked faces, we really may not have a reason. It might just be that life is a little too overwhelming at the moment.