I can’t believe I am going to write about this, but I thought that this post should play an important role in my fight against the stigma surrounding mental illness. I personally think that I sound crazy, which is totally me buying into the stigma itself and I don’t think it’s okay. I want to try not to judge myself and convince myself that something is wrong with my brain and I am not bringing this upon myself.
Last week, I started experiencing some extreme symptoms around anxiety. At first, it seemed like stuff I had experienced before, mainly chest pain and shortness of breath. It’s a really annoying physical symptom that is extremely painful. I’m sure many other people can relate.
On Friday afternoon, I started to feel this weird sense that I wasn’t sure if recent events had actually occurred. I know this sounds funny, but I was extremely obsessed with the American election in recent weeks and when Donald Trump was elected, I wasn’t even upset because I truly did not think it had happened. I still don’t think it did. All day, I felt unsure whether conversations I had in the past few days had happened. Everything felt foggy. I had gone shopping a few days earlier and I was completely unsure whether I had actually gone shopping, even though I was wearing the new clothes that day.
I went to go see my family doctor and he said that I probably just needed an adjustment in my medication. He said that if I started to feel worse, I should go to the local psychiatric hospital, CAMH. Over the next few hours, I started to feel like I was literally going insane. I just felt completely out of touch and removed from myself. I was speaking to my boyfriend but I felt like I was dreaming. I got really scared so we went to the hospital. I waited for a few hours and finally spoke to a psychiatrist. They said what I was experiencing was a symptom of extreme anxiety called derealisation or depersonalization. According to Wikipedia, “Derealization is a subjective experience of unreality of the outside world, while depersonalization is sense of unreality in one’s personal self.”
They suggested that I increase one of my medications and referred me to their urgent care clinic and said they would call on Monday. They said that it wasn’t likely to last too long. I felt a bit reassured. Over Saturday, I was still feeling a bit weird but felt a little better. My beautiful sister drove all the way from Montreal to spend Saturday and Sunday with me and help me get back to normal. We went out for dinner and went to a movie. I still felt foggy but I was able to focus on the film.
The next day, we went to the Royal Winter Fair with a friend. I wanted to try to act normally and go about my business as if nothing was wrong. I actually had a pretty good time but towards the end, I started to have really bad chest pain. I also felt really hot and kind of like I was watching myself in a dream. We got home and I immediately went into bed because my head was spinning and I felt really scared. I really felt as if I wasn’t awake. I had literally just left the fair but I wasn’t sure if I had actually gone to the fair or if I had dreamed that. Everything felt really surreal. I would be speaking and I felt like I was listening to someone else.I would scroll through Facebook and could not understand what I was reading as being real. I was really scared about what could happen. What if I completely lost touch with reality? I asked my boyfriend if he could drive me back to the hospital.
We waited for a few hours again and essentially left with the same course of action from Friday. They said that they had no beds and could not admit me and that I wasn’t psychotic so it wasn’t necessary anyways. Apparently derealisation is a very common symptom of extreme anxiety and is really treatable. This morning I set up an appointment for Wednesday morning and I will be seeing a specialist. Until then, right now, I feel really weird. It’s a very scary feeling to feel as if nothing is real. Apparently, this anxiety over the symptom can worsen the derealisation, so it’s a vicious cycle. As I type this, it is extremely hard to concentrate and I am not even sure if I am making any sense. I also keep having to look up words because they look weird to me. I feel like I am reading something written by someone else.
It’s just really frustrating that this is happening because I was feeling so good for the past year. I absolutely hate that I have to miss work but there is no way I can focus and I have the worst memory right now. I am completely unsure whether conversations are real and I can’t remember what I talked about with someone half an hour ago I also don’t trust myself to act professionally and e-mail people and do work that has real consequences because I am afraid I will make significant mistakes because nothing feels real. I hate that I can’t be normal and just live life and go to work like a regular person. I just want to work on my career and achieve my personal and professional goals. I feel so sad that I have to pause my life and figure this out. I feel sad that I can’t meet my responsibilities and that I have to disappoint people. I also just feel crazy. Every time I explain these symptoms to someone, I almost laugh because it doesn’t feel like something that would happen to a normal person. Depression is easier to understand, but not feeling as if things are real? That’s messed up. And yes, I know that no one is normal and that I am not alone and I should not use language like “crazy”. But it’s just how I feel.
I will keep you updated on what happens but I just wanted to share this with you. I really hope that you don’t let this colour your viewpoint of me and that you will continue to see me as someone who is smart, capable and caring. That’s who I want to be and be seen as and I don’t want to lose that.