Consequences Of Being Busy

Despite the consequence of being busy, I’m a go-getter, I love being on the go from the time I get up until night falls and it’s time to retire for the day. For many years I thought this was a great character trait to have because society has whispered it in our ears for who knows how long. But is it really true? Can being on a relentless, task-driven, Tasmanian devil-like whirlwind really be that great of a thing? What about those with mental illness? Similarly, is it proper to assume that, like cars coming off an assembly line that we are all designed to operate at the same speed and perform to the same capabilities as others?

Looking back at my own story, I can see how I folded right into this notion that busy is best. In fact, I assimilated it into part of my identity; not ever once thinking of the repercussions to my overall health, let alone that of my mental health. I am very sad to say that I paid a huge price for this societal driven expectation. Like the eroding shoreline, worn by the waves, my mental and physical health slowly but steadily began to wear down; the tragic consequence of towing the cultural line was a gradual metamorphosis that moulded me into a person I didn’t recognize. 

As I slugged along trying to take on the everyday workings of life and comply with a number of other unwritten rules, you know the ones, buying a house, having kids, and work, work and more working, I felt as though I was a former runner who had taken the sport up again after taking ten years off. About half-way through the race of my young adult life, I pushed myself too far and relented to this unknown person I became. Who was this exhausted, frightened, sad and anxious fella I had become? This wasn’t me! Or was it? stress and mental health – The consequences of being busy

Perhaps life had sculpted me into my reality, unmasked the real self, the me that I had hidden from the outside world because my true self went against convention. In doing so, I exacerbated my underlying and unknown mental illnesses. I wanted to create, write, and help others in my own ways. By allowing social norms to hold me back, I put all my passions on the back burner and as a result, my passionate light began to dim and the illnesses grew in strength. They became such a force that they paused my world and left me a bystander to the world as it passed me by.

Fortunately, my long battle has taught me some very painful yet very valuable lessons. Despite this very rough road I’ve travelled, I have to say that I am very grateful for the ride because it has forced me into a place where I had little choice but to make friends with my demons, gather my internal strength, and seek out reasons for the changes in me. I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Now, I have given myself permission to learn and stay within the limits that my illnesses allow, I am getting quite good at recognizing when I’ve reached my threshold and work hard to stay within those tolerances. Now as I strive to get better, maybe my upper limit will increase and I will be able to take on a bit more. That’s the goal. Knowing my limits has saved my life.

Maybe you’re not cut out to obey what society dictates for you. Maybe you are driven by your mental health and are simply avoiding your solution and thus impeding your chance to find you’re happy. So, are you happily keeping yourself busy, or hiding, not only from the world around you but also running around in circles, trying to hide from YOU? I would hazard a guess that it’s all the above.

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Cluttered Mind-Cleaning The Garage


So, your garage has slowly but steadily become your catch-all for all the items you own, the belongings you “may need” in the future. But this “out of sight out of mind, I’ll just put it in the garage for now”plan you adopt every time you unclutter a room in your house hits a snag the day you decide to go out and buy yourself a shiny, new car, but not just any car, the car you’ve been eyeing for a while now; because it’s brand new and is the new love of your life, the last thing you want is for your new babe to be left out in the cold. You happily drive it home and as soon as you turn into your driveway you remember that half of your material possessions are stacked right to the garage door. You’re Immediately struck with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and dread at the task ahead, every bit as intense as leaving an air-conditioned house and being faced with a hot summer day. So overwhelmed in fact that the only solution you can think of is to make a hasty retreat to your front door.

Being motivated to take good care of your new car makes the thoughts of making room for it constant and the heavy dread ever-present. But one day it dawns on you that in order to alleviate this ever-present angst, you must tackle the problem, feelings be damned. You take no joy in taking it on, but you roll up your sleeves and you work away at it. As you make progress the dread feels lighter and lighter and the anxiety starts to subside.

You may be asking yourself, “What does cleaning up one’s garage have to do with your mental health?” Well, you asked, many parallels can be drawn between someone who has an anxiety disorder and how a healthy person feels in the scenario above. What makes them similar is that the psychological experiences are the same, the feelings of dread, anxiety and being overwhelmed are shared by both. Both rate this overall mental feeling as being unpleasant.

But, the fundamental difference between the two is huge, the individual with the anxiety disorder experiences these symptoms on a very frequent basis and is often debilitated by them whilst the healthy person is experiencing a normal reaction to their stressful circumstance.

In my life, my anxiety disorder is almost always “on”. I was disabled by being so overwhelmed, stressed and in a constant state of dread because, like the person with the garage, I let things pile up from the floor to ceiling in the garage that lies within my head. Similarly, I didn’t have the first sweet clue how to fix it. Like a warm wave, it overwhelmed me at the very thought of trying to figure it out. So I played the avoidance game and waited for it to magically fix itself. Like that was ever going to happen!

Because living in near-constant anxiety became so unbearable, I decided I needed to take steps to minimize my pain. So, like the person who came to the conclusion that they just simply needed to tackle the garage, I began to seek out ways to clean up my internal mess. This took the form of medication and therapy among other things. Seeking professional help and working to unclutter my mind did wonders to ease my anxiety and reduce the heavy heading feeling that came along with being anxious. The medication is simply a tool to help make the job of freeing up space a lot easier. I feel so much more liberated now as a result and now that I am on my way to wellness, I no longer feel lost, powerless and overwhelmed; and just like the person who only wants to preserve their brand-new car, I only want to work hard to improve my mental health.

For those without mental illness, the garage scenario, the feelings that it created for the well individual, that’s what it’s like for someone with an anxiety disorder on a regular basis. If you seek to understand what it’s like, you need only to think of a similar scenario, one that you’ve encountered. Try to think about what that felt like at the time. That’s the feeling, only the disorder amplifies those feelings and the anxious switch is always set to on. Hopefully, this will go a long way to help those who don’t understand it gets to a place where they can. And hopefully, it will foster more compassion for the sick too.

Signs of strength

Signs Of Strength When mentally Ill.

When I started my wellness journey, it was met with fear and uncertainty. I was unsure for my future. Nonetheless, I took a deep breath and prepared myself for battle. Leading up to this wellness journey
I was barely clinging to the everyday routine of my life. Like a broken branch being violently tossed about in a windstorm, so too was everything I ever knew. I was caught in the turbulence of a force that I had not yet experienced. I’ve had my moments of being pretty ill in the past, but this time it just felt different. I learned that you have to look for signs of strength when mentally ill.
A new demon had rolled into town threatening to uproot the mental illness that had already staked its claim on my headspace. This new sickness moving to town wasn’t completely foreign to me, I had wrestled with him in the past. When this disorder caught up with me this time however, I grossly underestimated its strength, as a result, it slowly overpowered and incapacitated me. This overwhelming force is the mental disorder known as (PTSD) post-traumatic stress disorder.
Before this adversary, I was at odds with my resident mental illness, (GAD) generalized anxiety disorder. Powerful in its own right, it was a trickster I knew far too well to be defeated by it on its own. I was battling the angst it produced and winning the vast majority of the days’ battles against it.

it’s up to you to find the help you need and discover what those tolerances are.

It came at a cost however, my fight or flight response was always engaged and causing a significant amount of mental fatigue, but I knew this and compensated for it; going to bed earlier was just one of the ways I coped. I was still king of the mental health castle.
That all changed when the PTSD and the GAD started a turf war vying for absolute supremacy over my mental health. I could slowly feel the happy being withered away, caught in their crossfire.
Despite my health being held at the mercy of the two, I still went to work, still forced a smile on my face and tried to be the positive helpful John I had always been. I diligently fulfilled my personal obligations and went through great lengths to ensure my kids were none the wiser. Something had to give though, socially my life took on serious damage as I increasingly sought refuge behind the safety of my own four walls and as the battle within intensified, the need to withdraw became more and more frequent.

I gave up, retreated. Exhausted, I stayed at home, I was defeated, too weak to fight on; or was I?

At some point the two disorders decided to call a truce, good news right? Wrong! They figured they could have ultimate control over not only my mind, but they also realized that they would be stronger together, and they formed an alliance and have now attempted to take my soul and body as well. I was up against two very, very clever adversaries, and up to this very day they have wreaked havoc with my health, not only mentally but also physically.

Now allies at war with me, I felt powerless to combat the two, I felt weak, lonely, and defenceless. They were the perfect storm, intense and always in my head. The PTSD produced so much fear that I made retreating from public my second occupation. I constantly lived in fear of the possibility of seeing death or having to render aid to someone in an emergency. I was reactive to every little noise and the outside world had become way too loud and intolerable.

may I suggest that you are not weak and definitely not alone.

The GAD amplified the fears I had and still have around death, and being the ever-constant storyteller, it will construct scenarios of people dying in front of me in any number of ways.

See, the perfect partners. Their combined powers were too overwhelming and I eventually conceded to their power and became unable to face my job, the world around me, or enjoy the company of my loved ones. I felt like the weakest most useless person on earth, and I felt I had little choice but to surrender to my woes. With a feeling of shame and experiencing a numbing and persistent sadness, I gave up, retreated. Exhausted, I stayed at home, I was defeated, too weak to fight on; or was I?

Taking leave from work and faced with a lot of time on my hands I found that being absent from the constant stimulus of my occupation and the outside world, allowed me to spend a lot of time reflecting on the events in my life and all the effort I had put into trying to live a “normal” existence. Getting up every day, dragging myself through the everyday trials of life, work, kids, bills, dealing with conflict etc.
While all at the same time fighting not one but two mental illnesses and their tendencies to take the wheel and drive through whatever they wanted, like two teens without a license, taking me along for their destructive ride. Yet despite all this, I was raising my kids and doing a pretty good job. Not being able to work and contribute, although very tough, it made me realize that I had a tremendous support system.
“We the mentally ill don’t necessarily have disabilities, we have smaller tolerances, we simply need to learn how to work within them.”
(John Arenburg).
replaying my story in my mind, I have rightfully concluded that I wasn’t weak at all, that taking the time off was not a shameful act. I was merely aware enough to understand that my illness made me to sick to work, and perhaps, more importantly, it wasn’t because I was weak that I conceded to the PTSD and GAD, it was just out of pure exhaustion, battle fatigue if you will, physically and mentally spent. I needed and still, need time to get better.

What to hear real-life mental wellness journeys? Go to A New Dawn

I believe that if one exceeds their tolerances in life, as I had for many, many years one naturally, but incorrectly feels weak; simply because they are living up to someone else’s standards.
I think we would thrive if we acknowledge that we are all costumes made and have our own threshold, once exceeded we simply tire to the point that our body and mind say “enough”! Also, when we go against our own grain, neglect our true passions we then start to become ill and end up slugging our way through it because of our socially-expected obligations.

If this story sounds similar to your own, then may I suggest that you are not weak and definitely not alone. You’re also far from useless, you are a pillar of strength, an example of one who is strong; just drained and your tank is on E. Yet, despite this, you keep going.

I have had the honour of hearing many people’s life stories and I have yet to find one example of weakness, not one.  It’s OK to take time to re-learn your tolerances and as with any other illness, mental disorders come with their own challenges that need accommodation on your part, it’s up to you to find the help you need and discover what those tolerances are. these are all Signs Of Strength When mentally Ill.

To learn more about your limits click here: Mental illness and knowing your limits