Recently I spent an entire day with a beautiful individual giving our time and raising money to a great charity organization. No one knew that as he was giving so much to others, he was the one that needed the help. Trevor O’Keefe was a decorated RCMP officer, he lived his life constantly giving to other people in need and pushing his personal needs aside. Corporal O’Keefe is one of countless first responders that are suffering from PTSD quietly. First responders are constantly witnessing horrific things and then expected to “suck it up” and continue with their everyday lives. Now that we are more comfortable with speaking out about mental health issues we need to bring the awareness to absolutely everyone regardless of occupation, race, gender, etc. “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’ illness becomes wellness.” First responders are constantly keeping us safe and making us their first priority but when it comes to their mental health no one is putting them first.
I have committed high treason…against myself…AGAIN! I once again have begun to spread myself to thin. Breaking promises I told myself like, “I’ll go to bed by 10:00pm” or “I’ll stay on top of things”, and the classic “I’m fine, of course I’m not taking on too much”. But I’m not fine.
School, work, friends, family, volunteering, applications, planning for my future, meetings! (in no particular order). Sometimes it just gets to be to much. Constantly being pulled one way, whilst another part is being pulled in the opposite direction, all by my own hand. My decisions, and mine alone cause me stress, panic, and anxiety. And I can’t stop. Apart of me wants to, but another part of me knows (or at least thinks it knows) what’s best for me. I can’t tell anymore whether I’m worthy of a break, or if my judgement is on point, I just don’t know.
So many things and so little time. Or maybe its just my time management skills. Because honestly I can’t tell anymore. So much work and effort has been put into making me who I am, because no task is to big or to small when others ask; it’s not a problem. But I think I have a problem, or maybe I don’t and its just the lack of sleep. I just want…to be happy I guess. And I know this anxiety, this ball of fire in my chest burning me from the inside out will die down, maybe even go away entirely (eventually). But right now, all I want to do is lay down and not think.
I’m always thinking. Brain racing, head thumping constant reminders that there’s still so much to do. My future is riding on what I do, on my choices and it scares the hell out of me. Like a deck of cards, one small move, one misplaced card and all my hard work is gone. As if it was never there. Poof! And then what? Disappointment. The ever crushing, self loathing, let everyone down type of disappointment. The type of disappointment that makes your body feel like a thousand pounds, and yet like it’s floating. Untethered with nothing to keep you from floating away, from losing yourself, from ever caring again. So many expectations, and so many things to tend to. And sometimes, its all too much.
Being pulled apart sucks, its sucks a lot more when you are actively doing it to yourself. And I wish I had some positive ending statement about hope floats and precious words of encouragement, but I can’t even believe the ones I tell myself right now. But I’ll still be here. Day after day. Grinning and baring it till I get home, back to my bed, my safe place where I retreat inside my head. I really wish I had something more positive to say, but I can’t. I can’t lie to myself or anyone else and say it will be okay. Especially when there is nothing wrong with NOT being okay. No one has to be it all, no one has to achieve it all. I don’t just want to be good, I want to be great, to surpass everyone. But who I should really be focusing on is myself. I want to be better, I want to be stronger…but right now I can’t. And I have to learn to be okay with that.
** This post may relate to some and may be a trigger. Please always read with caution and take care of your mental health**
It’s interesting, I have had people in my life who really try to understand what I am going through and want to know how I feel during an “episode” but when it comes down to explaining it, I am at a loss for words. How do you explain feelings to someone who has never felt them before? How do you explain an episode when they are different every time?
I wanted to write this while I was at my lowest point because really I think that is the only way to really explain it, but of course when I’m in such a state there is no motivation to do anything so I am going to try my best to give you a glimpse. I’d like to point out this is MY PERSONAL experience and will not reflect everyone who is dealing with depression and anxiety. Also this is describing me at my most severe times which are not always completely reflective of my overall mental health. For me, it took a long time to figure out how I was feeling, I always tried to describe it, but trying to compare and reference my feelings only took away the intensity of my emotions. Within the last week or so I have finally found the one word that can truly describe how I feel: DISASSOCIATION. By definition disassociation is the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected. Being disconnected is feeling as though everything going on around me is out of my control, like the words I am speaking are not coming from me, but I am watching them being said. Like the consequences of my actions don’t matter because I am not there, a numb feeling that I cannot escape. My mind feels dull and numb while my body is in excruciating pain like someone is constantly stabbing a small knife into my ribs and chest. My ears are filled with pressure and my heart feels as if it is going to beat right out of my chest. When people are talking I can hardly focus as there are a million vicious thoughts running through my head telling me I am not good enough, I am a failure, that my friends are only my friends because they pity me and in reality no one wants me, just the things I can/will do for them. Sure, people have these insecurities at times but these thoughts do not stop, they are running an endless marathon and getting louder and louder with each check point.
This constant pain always leads my mind to the one thought no one ever wants to think; how easy it would be to just end it all, to give up with this being strong bullshit and just be selfish, in an eternal sleep. With that being said no matter how deep I am into my own mind, I always remind myself of a quote that has kept me going all these years, “suicide does not end pain, it just passes it to someone else and I would rather live a lifetime of pain than see those I love suffer.”
Coming out of an episode can be just as scary as being in one. I feel like I’ve blacked out, like the last few hours or even days are just a faint blur – a dream almost. Not only that, but it is completely exhausting both mentally and physically. I feel so tired and ready for bed which happens at any time, even in the morning before I have began to start my day – which usually ends in me missing class because I am unable to get myself ready.
As you can probably tell this post leaves me feeling very vulnerable but I think its important and needs to be talked about. So many people experience similar issues and like me are forced to just continue on with their day. My experiences don’t just happen when I am home. With school and work the triggers are endless, but at the end of the day papers need to be written, bills need to be paid and there is no time to recover. A horrible cycle that many of us face but please remember you’re never alone! Find someone (even if it’s an anonymous hotline) to confide in, get a journal and express yourself, or be like me and join a blog. Letting your pain out will help more than you think! Everyone is suffering and the severity of their suffering does not matter, all that matters is that we can all relate.
For the past 7 summers I have worked at the Canadian National Exhibition, 3 of which I have been a supervisor. This is definitely my favourite time of the year because it is the one job that although it can be very stressful, gives me the most peace. Seeing all the happy guests and helping make those guests happy gives me a joy that I don’t normally feel in my daily life.
This year was the same, if not better than the rest, but right from the start I was presented with a challenge I never thought would happen. On one of my staffs first day she expressed to me that she was having some issues with her mental health and she didn’t know where to turn to besides Google (which we all know is just a disaster waiting to happen). I asked her if she had thought about seeking professional advice but she felt as though no one would get it, that people wouldn’t believe how she feels which is something I completely understand and can relate to so I didn’t push further. And although I did not know much about body dysmorphia, I knew that I had to try and help her in any way that I could.
For the next week or so I began going onto UOIT’s library website and printing out credible articles on the subject (which I totally recommend for those who are starting out their journey to recovery). Then on my travels to and from work, I read and highlighted parts I found important before handing it all over to her in a little package. Of course as a psychology student it was incredibly interesting to read and very helpful in understanding what the disorder entailed, but nothing was more exciting than the look of relief/appreciation on her face.
I can’t say what changed her mind, maybe it was the information I gave her, maybe it was the fact that I was so understanding to how she felt, or maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but she is now considering going to speak to someone professionally. Putting your faith into a professionals hands can definitely be intimidating, especially for those of us who are tormented by our thoughts and don’t want others to know that side of us. But even if you don’t continue to see someone, I strongly urge you to at least make one visit, take the chance because it may not help (therapy really isn’t for everyone), but it may do incredible things for your mental health.
I think the point of me sharing this is that if someone comes to you with a mental health issue DO NOT turn away because it took so much courage for them to confide in you. A small gesture really does go a long way and even if you don’t know what to do you could end up really impacting someone’s life and in turn they may impact yours for the better.
** It’s been a rough 6 months for me so this post is a little short- more of a way for me to get back into writing!