I’m sitting here at home, super bummed because I am missing a concert that I was really looking forward to. Why am I not going? Because over the past week and a half, I have been experiencing severe anxiety symptoms including derealization – the sensation that nothing that is happening is real. I’m worried that going to the concert will only make the symptoms worse because of all the excessive stimulation – large crowd, loud music, flashing lights.
Not only am I missing fun stuff like concerts, I am also missing out on fulfilling my responsibilities – mainly, going to work like a normal functioning adult. I plan on returning to work on Monday and I am just crossing my fingers that my symptoms will have significantly abated by then. I am essentially just willing it to happen because I do not want to put my life on hold any longer. You would think that I would enjoy a break from work, but being sick is not a vacation. It’s not enjoyable for me to sit around with insane chest pain, to feel my skin crawling, to feel abnormally hot, to feel the world around me moving in a fog and unable to grasp onto it. It also just makes me depressed because my career is so important to me. I have a lot of ambitions about how I want my career to go and any pauses are unwelcome. I don’t want to miss out on projects at work that could help me develop new skills or give me new experiences that will help me grow and become even more capable at what I do and help my team accomplish great things.
I know that I can’t control this and that I didn’t choose for this to happen and that none of this is my fault. I know this theoretically but it is hard for me to actually convince myself that this is true. I know that mental illness is so common (1 in 5 Canadians) but I just still feel like I am just weak and should be able to suck it up and deal with it. Taking time to recover just feels like I am avoiding my responsibilities or being lazy
This whole week, I have been struggling with this wrench that has caused a very temporary halt in my career. If I am able to go back to work next week and slowly get back to normal, then hopefully within a month I won’t feel as guilty or as disappointed in myself and I will be able to focus on moving forward and reaching towards my goals. In the past, I have had to miss a month or more at time at previous jobs and it was not fun at all.
But then I think about how lucky I am. Most of the time, I am able to manage my bipolar disorder, my depression, my anxiety. In the year at my current job, I didn’t have to miss significant time due to my mental illness. And I will likely not have to miss another chunk of time for a while if my new medication and treatment plan work like they are supposed to.
But sometimes medication and therapy and other forms of treatment just don’t work like they are “supposed to”. Sometimes people cannot wake up on a daily basis and go to work. Their symptoms are just too severe. Many people with mental illness receive disability payments from the government, live in extreme poverty or are even homeless. Many people cannot accomplish their goals because they are too busy trying to survive. Their goals become less ambitious – think less CEO, more receiving any paycheck at all. And it’s not because they are lazy or aren’t working hard enough to “fix” their mental health. It’s just that their brain is not responding. They can’t control it.
I’m not saying that everyone should aspire to be a CEO. But I do know that it is an awful feeling to be prevented from doing the things you dream of because of your physical or mental health. Most people have big dreams, realistic or not. They can be related to career, wealth, personal relationships, travel, etc. Not everyone has the means or the time to attain these dreams. I once met a woman with bipolar disorder who can’t work because she has such severe periods of depression and mania on a very regular basis. Basically, two weeks out of every month, she is unable to function or even leave her bed. I remember one time seeing her crying and talking about how she was never able to work on her career a social worker. She was so upset that she had never been able to even finish university. It completely broke my heart.
I always think of her when I am down. I worry that I will become her, that my partner will have to support me and maybe will one day resent me for that. I know that she still does her best to live a life with meaning. And she rocks at it! But she does have some regrets. Huge regrets. Regrets because her shitty disorder caused her to miss out on stuff. And that’s not fair. No one should have to deal with that.
That’s why I want to work as hard as possible to find the treatment that works for me. To continue to share stories about mental illness with the world in order to raise awareness, get more funding for research and find new ways of treating disorders like mine and others, so that people can live their best life, the life they choose with as few regrets as possible. To be able to work as hard as I can so that I can make the most of my own life and make sure I can take every opportunity offered to me that others might not be able to take themselves. If you want to help me achieve these goals and want to tell your story on the blog, please reach out! I am so open to a guest blog or two or five. I want to collaborate with others to make Slay Girl Society a place for everyone, not just people like me. Hit me up!
So what can someone do when mental health issues DO throw a wrench in your plans? Find a way to carve a new path based on what you can handle. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Set new goals. Find new ways to give your life meaning. This won’t be easy. And you might not be able to do it alone. A therapist could probably help or even a friend or a family member. And if you need an ear – I’m always here!