Overthinking – Pondering What Could Be the Cause of my Mental Turmoil

When someone is seeking answers to something, they seek out the experts. Meeting and speaking with them, hoping that spilling their innermost thoughts and feelings and presenting the facts that match to things that they know, they hope to receive an answer that matches the research they themselves have conducted. As for myself, I think I’m afraid to know, but desperate to confirm.

I hate jumping to conclusions and I hate diagnosing myself before a doctor can, but as I have been waiting this long to know what is wrong with me, it is only natural that a paranoid, anxious psychology student would start seeing parallels with the many mental illnesses I study within myself.

Last week, I found myself switching from general anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, and depression, as those can be diagnosed by a GP, to thinking I might have a more severe condition. Thoughts of bipolar disorders and cyclothymia crossed my mind. I almost drove myself nuts seeing if my symptoms matched the reported symptoms of these disorders. However, I am my own worst doctor, I will always think I am over-exaggerating or under-reporting my own symptoms. I don’t condone Google-diagnosis, but I still find myself doing it, in my endless search for answers.

I can’t seem to sit still, my mind is both exhausted and racing everyday, and I just want to keep moving forward but feel so stuck. The anticipation of finally getting some confirmation and answers are almost overbearing. The stress of this term has taken its toll now; I have felt an anxious nausea sitting in my stomach for almost two weeks, feeling both hungry and repulsed by food, yet still overeating. The weather has had me down for so long, my emotions feel blunted to the point I can’t remember what a strong emotion feels like, and the world is both too bright and too dull. I feel crazy and calm all at once.

I try to keep my mind away from focusing on things like this too much, but sometimes its all I can focus on. I really just want confirmation, so that I can stop adding the disclaimer *not yet diagnosed* to my statements on mental health. I hope someone else who is struggling with a lack of diagnosis can relate to my feelings, and maybe feel less alone. I hope if you are reading this, everything will fall in place for both of us in time.

Til then, good luck and much love.

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The State of Our Mental Health System

I called into the office of a psychiatrist in Barrie, ON sometime last month. I spoke with the receptionist, who while lovely and helpful, presented me with the next available appointment date for a psychiatric diagnostic appointment: Friday, October 25, 2017 at 9:15 am. As she read off the date and time, the only thing I found myself saying was “Oh god.”

In ten months time I will be able to speak to a psychiatrist and tell him everything that has happened to me and everything that I feel and live with daily. Ten. Months. I am on the cancellation list as of now, leaving my appointment potentially within the next few months if someone cancels.While I tried my best not to be angry, I am still disappointed. My heart aches and I grow tired. I was hoping for an appointment within a month to show this doctor the worst of my sadness and anxiety. But it will have to work much longer, once again.

It still baffles me that in a country with a praised health care system can have such long waitlists and such large date gaps when it comes to psychiatric appointments. For a field that is pursued by a number of students in universities across Canada and the world, there seems to be a lack of these doctors here. It saddens me that while I have the patience and ability to wait this long, others may be near-crisis or creeping towards a breakdown and can’t receive this treatment sooner. I am aware of crisis hotlines and hospitals that provide counsellors for crisis, but I sincerely doubt anyone wants to reach that point. It also disappoints me that while one can see a therapist in the mean time, typically therapists are not covered directly by health insurance, especially if they are in-home or have a private practise. I have seen one therapist and one psychologist in the past three years. The therapist I saw for one session and cost me $100, which forced me to discontinue as I could not claim it under my insurance. The psychologist I saw twice and cost me $150 a session, which I only received 80% coverage over.

I don’t mean to sound so pessimistic, but it’s difficult to look up when money and time are not on your side. I don’t know if I would ever reach crisis point, but the thought of someone else who may not have access suffering is disheartening. I am lucky enough to have a doctor who is willing to help me and treat me as required. I hope that others who are in my position and struggling with their mental health are able to keep their head up and press on until they receive the help they need.

Good luck and much love.

It’s Here and I’m Getting Help – Seasonal Affective Disorder and Psychiatry

My last post (which it has been such a long time since) discussed my long standing struggle with what I believe is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It has now starting affecting me, as I expected. The days are darker and now I find myself drawn to staying in bed, sleeping much longer, neglecting my readings, eating out of boredom and sadness, and feeling the urge to break out in tears every few hours. My emotions are becoming harder to control; I’m irritable, cantankerous, and emotional.

I realized how bad it had gotten after leaving my doctor’s appointment earlier this month, I sat in a Tim Horton’s forcing back tears as I contemplated sitting the four hour transit ride home. I had just gotten my referral for a diagnostic appointment that I have to schedule and a referral to meet with Dr. Tim Bilkey to deal with an ongoing struggle with focus and memory retention (I will be discussing this in a later post). I should have been happy, if not at least relieved. But I kept thinking over and over how my mum hadn’t woken me up to say goodbye, how I felt so guilty for not visiting more, how I missed my mom and my dog and even my brother a bit, and how I couldn’t go home yet. Even writing this post I’m fighting back tears. Maybe I’m just not letting myself feel things as I should be, maybe I just need a good cry, or maybe I need a distraction. But I’m at the point where I can tell that even though I can get up, go to work, and go to school, I’m not okay. I have the drive, but I’m not happy, at least not how one should be.

My anxiety is mounting and I feel myself sinking into the pattern of darkness and gloom. But luckily, within the next four days I will know when my psychiatric appointment will be and when I have it, I will have a professional opinion of what I have going on and what I should do. I’m tired of letting my grades slip and losing my temper and fighting back tears every day for four months. I want to be better and do better. Many people may tell me how I’m doing well because I am at least going to work and school. But how well can I be doing if I’m sleeping 9-12 hours a day and only going to work and school out of an anxious duty? I hope that by explaining this, someone may read this and see the correlation within themselves; and to that person who may be searching for answers, they are out there, I hope you are alright and coping as well.

I’m trying to get back into biweekly or monthly posting now that term one is over, but sometimes my stress and anxiety overwhelms me and I let it slip by. Once I have my psychiatric appointment I will give my thoughts. Til then, good luck and much love to you all.

Here It Comes – My Struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the days grow darker and the nights get longer, I find myself caught in this tug-of-war of emotion. I love the dark, the night, the fall and pre-winter seasons for their atmosphere and weather. But once November and December is upon us, I feel it creep in. It can’t be stopped and it can’t really be contained, it’s a slow rolling wave that comes toward me slowly and crashes over me like a hard hand. Here it comes, my seasonal depression.

I feel the exhaustion, the fatigue, the “Why get out of bed today?”, the sadness, the need to curl up and never move. The anxiety of “I can’t miss school today!” and the depressing thought of “I just want to sleep forever.” The only thing to truly get me out of bed is work, and even then I only wish I could stay home. I don’t want to interact with anyone, I don’t want to go outside, I don’t want to exist in any capacity than sleeping and the Internet. My grades drop, I stop studying, assignments are left until late, I slack off at work and sleep days away. I feel this as the snow falls, the Christmas lights go up and the trees come down, nothing becomes light again until April or May, when school is done and the winter has gone.

I never understood what this was; why I hated Christmas time outside of Christmas day, why I never wanted to leave my house, why my body hated getting up in the morning. Was it the cold? Was it the snow? Was it the unhappy memories of fights over Christmas with my family? Or was it my already existing depression becoming worse with the lack of sunlight?

My doctor knows this occurs to me. Or at least, he does but not the full extent. I haven’t been formally diagnosed with depression or seasonal affective disorder. I find myself pushing myself to suck it up, like I always do. I tell myself I have no valid diagnosis, so I shouldn’t be allowing this to happen to myself. But I don’t allow it. I’ve mentally taught myself that because I lack a diagnosis, I don’t have the right to feel the way I do. But when your family and friends notice how starkly different you behave during the summer compared to the winter, when they ask you if you are okay and if you are alright all winter and comment on your change in the spring. Is it so wrong to think something else is here?

I look forward to the day I can sit down with a psychiatrist and explain all these feelings I endure when the days are dark and cold. I hope to one day hear that I was right and it is alright to know yourself. While others may take offense to my presumptions, I know me; and I know that winter is possibly the hardest time of year for me mentally.

Good luck and much love.

Restraint and Control – Anger in Addition to Depression and Anxiety

A side effect of depression and anxiety is irritability. By side effect, I mean a very common occurrence for many suffering with either. As someone with both, I struggle to control myself with it in all situations. I get overwhelmed extremely easily. At work, I get frustrated and angry at the drop of a hat with things as simple as hangers. I look at myself in the mirror when I’m home alone, screaming at small things that have me worked up and think “What is wrong with me?” But I know what’s wrong.

I often feel like I have little control over my emotions. My partner will be the first one to tell you he finds my intense frustration at inanimate objects highly annoying. We could be in the middle of a grocery store, I could go to pull a box of cereal off the shelf and bring two with it, and I would have to grit my teeth to prevent myself from screaming or throwing something. Believe me, it’s not something I’m proud of. My mother has been one of the few who has seen how angry I can get. She used to tell me as a kid she wanted to put me in anger management because I would blow up at her, my brother, my step-father quite often. As I got older, I learned to quell the rage surges by not saying anything, breathing a little, and trying to rationally think. However, it’s not as easy as some may think.

I believe a lot of my pent up anger is due to a lot of my issues from childhood. I suffered from bullying at school, familial and relationship abuse, and emotional neglect from my parents. I won’t go into details as I am private regarding those times, but I attribute my current mental state to those times. I can’t blame it all on that, as I have come to terms and resolved many issues from that time. But why I am so angry still? Because I still deal with depression and anxiety everyday? Because I don’t sleep enough? Because I’m frustrated with other aspects of my life? Maybe it’s a combination of the three.

In reflection over the past couple of months of life, I often worry people will hear me groaning, whining, or growling under my breath at work or in public. I’m really not proud of how easily I am frustrated, to the point I worry about snapping at the people I cared about the most. The other week, I was having a particularly bad week at work and I felt I snapped at my supervisor (she felt I really hadn’t snapped at all, I was frustrated with myself and having a panic attack that day as well). But my self control has improved considerably since starting at my retail job. I enjoy my job enough to not feel the urge to pull my hair out, but it has its downfalls just like any other job. Though I work with a great team, so I don’t *always* feel like I’ll lose my mind at work.

In retrospect, I feel like I still have quite a bit of work to do with trying to internalize my frustrations and anger. On my birthday last week, I literally felt my self control devolving after spending 3 hours in the heat and public, but I kept it mostly to myself. I hope if you take anything away from this, it’s that frustration and anger come and go, but to hold your tongue when the situation is most pressing, and to remember that things are not as bad as they feel. I hope I continuing improving my ability to keep calm and reduce my anger further.

Good luck and much love.

Weight of the World – When Finances and Mental Health Collide

Recently, I faced a very difficult situation since moving out on my own. After struggling to gain my footing in my new town and home, I managed to get a job waiting tables at a restaurant. It was located closer to school than my home but still within doable distance by buses and trains if needed. However, for reasons I cannot ascertain, I was slowly given less and less hours until I received none for almost five weeks straight. I was terrified – I lived in a two bedroom basement apartment with my common-law partner and my roommate. My partner is unemployed but has a large portion of savings to get him through all of his schooling, while my roommate works a part-time job with regular hours; both received CPP (Canada Pension Plan) from their parents as well, while at this point I was basically borrowing money from both of them and my parents (my mother was also struggling with employment at this point). I felt like a failure, constantly applying for jobs and hearing nothing. I’d leave after class and print off five resumes at a time, taking the bus to the Pickering Town Centre and handing them out in the shops and restaurants in the area, desperate for anything. My mental state deteriorated into a deep bout of depression; I was constantly anxious, my eating would bounce between eating too much and eating next to nothing, all I wanted to do was sleep and cry. I felt I did not deserve the help I was receiving from my loving and understanding family.

It wasn’t until I got the news that I was finally hired at my current job that things started looking up. I received a slight boost when my employer called me to apologized and offer me shifts after rearranging which managers would be making the schedule. I was thrilled, finally I would have a stable income again. But I was let down once more, on Mother’s Day I was let go from the job that had let me down for so long, for literally no good reason other than they did not want me. Thankfully, I still have the job I have now and I feel rewarded. I’m still struggling to regain my footing after nearly three months of unemployment, my credit card racked up some debt and I owe my parents and partner so much thanks for being understanding and supporting me financially and emotionally.

Unfortunately, not everyone has such a great support system in place for when they hit hard times. You can’t always predict when you’ll be laid off, fired, or even having to quit a job. You can’t always know how much savings you may need to keep you afloat and for how long. It’s a scary thought and even scarier revelation. I got lucky, but if someone else were in my situation, would they have been? My mother told me if I lived with anyone else, I wouldn’t have been permitted to stay there, and I worried. What if that were true? How lucky am I really? My roommate and partner understood that it was not my fault I did not have hours. I went into my work and begged to have hours, anything would do. But nothing gave. My mother gave me rent for two months and paid my grocery bills. My partner paid for everything, loaning me cash to get even a coffee after class. As a stubborn person, taking money from those I felt needed it more was a struggle for me. Even though in the back of my head I knew I would be okay, my mother’s independence she instill in me made me feel worse for “mooching”. I applied for welfare, only to be turned down upon the welfare officer taking one look at my partner’s bank statements. We had to apply as a common-law couple and I knew that this would disqualify me. I finally lost my cool in the office, bursting into tears in front of a complete stranger and my loving partner, who grew angrier at my situation and at my employers. Thankfully, this did not strain our relationship, and I’m ever grateful for his even temperament and loving nature.

Now that I finally am getting on my feet again, I want to provide some sort of advice to those who may go through or already are going through what I have. Please, do not feel like a failure. Even if you feel it is your fault, you still have ways of getting yourself out. Always remember to budget and save wherever you can. I did not do this and I regretted it immensely later. Track what you spend, see where you overspend and try to reduce it. Talk to your friends and family, be honest and upfront about the difficulties you feel. Do not do what I often do and burden yourself by holding things in. It may be an act of pride, stubbornness, or severe independence, but how does it benefit you? Talking with someone may potentially provide you with assistance in planning and budgeting as well. Most of all, I want you to remember that this is not forever. You may feel stuck, like you will never have a job again or you will be thrown out of your living situation, but you probably won’t. Don’t give up on applying for jobs – apply online, in-person, both where applicable. Something will come around, it may take time but you will find something. I can’t promise everything will be perfect, but in due time you will be okay. Please do not take drastic action even if you feel it is necessary. There are options available at school and in your community, research them and take advantage of them.

Good luck and much love.