This post is about mental illness. It may trigger some of you, so please read at your own risk.
Today I had to come out to my bosses at my two jobs. It started just before my afternoon 15 minute break. Well it actually started at the beginning of the week, when exactly, I’m not sure.
But it piqued (hopefully) today.
I have PTSD, Depression, and Generalized Anxiety. All of which are well managed. Very well managed I would say. Save a dark moment a little over a year ago in April, I have not had any major issues and have kept my mental illnesses in check through medication and therapy. Despite therapy and medication; I’m still anxious 24/7. It’s not a full on panic attack; it’s a dull, hardly noticeable anxiety that just… sits there, like a virus that is running in the background on your computer. Eating up memory and information and energy. I’ve become so accustomed to my baseline anxiety level that I don’t even notice it anymore.
Sometime earlier today I noticed that my baseline anxiety level has been heightened all week. I took an inventory in my head of what could be causing this anxiety: I’m worried about money (but that’s hardly new), I’m exhausted from working two jobs, I’m doing anything that gives me passion lately.
Normally, the worry about money and the exhaustion from working two jobs would be things I could push to the back of my mind by telling myself “I’m not going to worry about money right now, I’m going to focus on this (insert distraction/task/etc).”
This has always been an effective tool for me. I didn’t do that today. Not long before my afternoon break, I began to have trouble breathing. I took my break around 2:30. According to my Apple Watch, my heart rate steadily increased all day piqueing at 102 b/min at 2:52. It maintained in the 90’s the rest of the day.
When I returned to my desk, my hands were shaking, my breathing became shallow, and I couldn’t see. When I say I couldn’t see, I could actually see, I didn’t lose my sight; I just couldn’t focus on any objects or recognize them. My eyes were taking in sensory information but my brain was too focused on being a fucked up whack job and stopped processing the incoming sensory information.
I left my desk and called my psychiatrist’s nurses, I left them a rambling message. I couldn’t remember what I said in the message so 20-30 minutes later I left another, apologizing and saying something else. I have no recollection of what I said. I hate talking to them, I don’t know why I chose to talk to them versus my psychiatrist’s nurse practitioner directly like I normally do. I always feel judgement and as if they think I’m a drug seeker; which I always make a point to say that I’m not every time I have to talk to them and that just makes things worse and makes me more anxious.
So, at some point, I pulled one of our team leads aside and explained to him that I have PTSD and what was going on as my team lead was in a meeting. I asked if I could keep my cell phone on my desk as I was awaiting a call from my doctor. It also brings me comfort. I’ll explain that in a bit.
At some point, I sent a rambling email to my team lead and my managers explaining why I was away from my desk so much that afternoon and it probably made no sense and made them think oddly of me, and it’s still causing me some anxiety, but I’m practicing self-care to keep myself calm.
Luckily, I was able to pull myself together to get through the last hour of my work day. My psychiatrist had left for the day, so there was no solution from him, just his judgemental nurses. After talking to the nurses I called my part time job and explained to them that I wouldn’t be making it in and why. They mentioned that the other person had also called in, which A) made me feel guilty, thus making me more anxious and B) the thought of working in a busy pharmacy with just myself and one pharmacist for 5 hours made me more anxious. How I was able to pull myself together to get through the end of the day, I don’t know.
I’m no longer in panic attack mode. I am, however, still extra anxious beyond my baseline. We’ll wait and see what my psychiatrist says tomorrow.
So to tie my post back with my title; I had to come out today to both my bosses that I have a mental illness, well three of them. And that sometimes, they interfere with life. Not the impression I wanted to give them, but what can you do?
To get back to a point I made earlier: my phone bringing me comfort. When I was in nursing school, I was in my Intro to Psych class and we took a break midway through the class. I used to keep my phone in my bag and only check it between classes. Sometimes on breaks. That day, I just happened to check in on break in class. I had several missed calls and three voicemails from my dad telling me to get to the hospital ASAP as something had happened to my niece but there was no news. I called my dad and he didn’t still know anything but was on the way to the hospital. I stumbled back into the class room (late) and fumbled to get my things so I could leave for the hospital, of course I sat in the front row.
Ever since then, having my phone brings me comfort. Knowing that it is there in my hand, or close enough that I can touch it. In case something bad happens again.
I leave you with this image, taken from http://www.themighty.com from the post linked below:
Credit for the picture: http://themighty.com/2015/09/what-its-like-to-have-a-panic-attack/
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