Mental Mess – Cleaning up

Mental mess

Does avoidance really make it better? Or does it leave a mental mess?

Time, they say it heals all wounds. While I’m not convinced of this, I’m sure there are many people who take comfort in the thought that the passage of time is some sort of healer. Perhaps for some it is. I can see it being helpful when the tides of life are high and things before one seem impossible to cope with one’s mental mess.

Ways to deal with our mental pain

With that said, from my perspective, its not time in itself that makes our darkest moments in life lighter. Rather, its what we do in a given period of time that can help facilitate the healing process. Is remaining idle really the best way to move past pain? Or, Is this the equivalent to burring it somewhere deep down?

I have always been a take action kind of guy. I ask myself, what I feel to be the most fundamentally important question. What do I have to do to fix this? In my view, avoidance is not a coping tool.

The danger of avoidance

We modern humans don’t like to feel uncomfortable. Slightly cold? Turn the heat up; have a bead of sweat on your brow? blast the A/C; And, If one feels any twinge of mental pain, avoid, avoid, avoid. Some will do whatever they must to wiggle their way around talking about things that remain hidden and thus unresolved.

I’m inclined to believe that ignoring it has the potential to be devastating.

While opening up about how own feels is undoubtedly very difficult and can illicit very strong emotional feelings, I have difficulties thinking of things in life that aren’t more difficult initially before they get better. Life is messy, any attempts to clean it up and make it better are always meet with a large challenge in the beginning. Just like the last time you cleaned up that pantry you’ve been avoiding for months. What did that feel like at first? Overwhelming right?

Despite feeling like an ocean wave is heading right for you, you understand that this task must be done, its driving you up the wall. But, as you tackle the clutter, do you feel worse or is the angst beginning to lift?

I’m willing to wager that the anxiety you feel is starting to dissipate as you can see that this tiny faction of your life’s problems is starting to become less and less chaotic. By the end of it you always feel better and are glad you dealt with it.

So, what’s this got to do with how one deals with their emotional self? Well, let’s replace the challenge of the pantry with the difficulties of mental illness. When one first comes face to face with a diagnosed mental health condition; how do they feel? For me, I was very overwhelmed, it was as though a giant wave was washing over me, I had no place to run. I had two choices, deal with it or ignore it. Would ignoring my diagnoses been wise? What happens when people do?

Since you are here, check out Post Traumatic Stress Tested In Real Time

I feel that ignoring symptoms makes life difficult. If one has depression for example, calling in sick all the time because its just too much is not solving the depressive episodes, its putting your living at risk. So in this instance, is not dealing really working? Considering the consequences of pretending your ok can be dire. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that ignoring it has the potential to be devastating.

Mental Mess

I will leave you with this; If you deal with what is slowly dismantling your life, you will see a reduction in the overwhelming anxiety that comes with simply living with the mess. If you work on your turmoil, will you see a gradual reduction in symptoms? When you have gotten it straightened out, will you feel a sense of accomplishment or will it feel worse? Of course, it’s for you to decide but I do know that you’ll never know unless you confront your mental mess.

Medications – At An Impasse


After a long experiment with different medications, I have to close this chapter and go with what I am left with.

For those who visit The Road To Mental Wellness regularly, you may have come across a post or two that talked about the my unique challenges surrounding medications. For those of you that haven’t I’ll give you a quick run down.

Since November of last year, I have been seeing a wonderful psychiatrist who has been working diligently to find a pharmaceutical treatment that will quiet my symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety. I am grateful that there is someone advocating for me with such a desire to want to help.

What makes my challenge a unique one is a preexisting medical condition. I have a seizure disorder called epilepsy. To be more specific about the difficulties it brings, it’s not the disorder in itself, its the medication to prevent the seizures.

I will mentally make a list of all the grateful things that have come out of this experience.

This story is a good news, bad news type of story. The good news is actually great news for me. Since I have been treated with this med, a drug called Carbamazepine, it has helped me remain seizure free since 1994. a fact that I am still very grateful for. It has meant the difference between living a normal, meaningful life and caving out a world dictated by disease.

By now you must be wondering what epilepsy medication and mental illness treatments have to do with one another? Well, Carbamazepine washes most of the SSRI’s, serotonin reuptake inhibitors out of liver, drugs that are used to treat mental health conditions like Depression and PTSD. Antidepressants and the like are systematically washed out of the liver by this particular anti-convulsant. Sucks, right?

Depression and PTSD.

With that being said, not all hope was lost. I was happy to hear that despite the unique position I was in, there were a few options we could try. This news was a huge relief for me because I desperately needed something to dull the fear, sleepless nights and nightmares.

I accepted all the medications that were offered hoping against hope that with every new prescription came a potential that I could get my life back. But, to no avail, they either did nothing for me or made me so tired I couldn’t function.

Loosing really isn’t an option for me

Here we are, at an impasse. We have reached the end of the line pharmaceutically speaking. There’s no doubt that, although I’m not surprising, I was nonetheless was saddened by the news.

Never one to give up easily, I brushed aside the feelings of disappointment. I am determined to carry on. I know that there are many more options out there. I can improve my diet and exercise more for starters.

So, what does this mean for me? Well, first off, I will mentally make a list of all the grateful things that have come out of this experience. To give you an idea of what gratitude looks like for me, below is a list.

Medications, not the only option
  1. I had been put on a medication they may not hampered drug treatment options but has allowed me to live my life and do many wonderful things.
  2. I have an excellent psychiatrist that has truly exhausted all options and has been a seller advocate for me.
  3. Despite the feelings of lonely and isolation, I have a wonderful support system the ranges from close friends and family to the all the mental health and other agencies that have supported me.
  4. I know for a fact that there are other options.

Loosing really isn’t an option for me. when I review my own reasons to be grateful, it helps me carry on. So, if you’re feeling the weight of despair and feel like you’re getting no where, write down all the great things that are in you life. You may be surprised to see just how far you’ve come, how strong you are and who cares when the chips are down.

You may also enjoy: Signs Of Strength When You’re Not Mentally Well

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You may also enjoy: Apologies For What, Being ill?

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You may also enjoy: I am vulnerable: I’m good with that.

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Who’s taking care of you?

Who’s taking care of you?

I learned very early on that I wanted to spend my life helping others. I can’t describe why or where it came from, All I knew is that it burned deep within. Later on, I began to wonder who’s taking care of me.

So, joining the fire service seemed like a perfectly good place to fulfill my desire to help. In the first years of my service, it was wonderful. I caught they bug, big time and never looked back. At least and until my desire to help others was manhandled by mental illness.

I recall being so happy to be part of this organization. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to contribute to your community than signing up to be a volunteer firefighter. Although I battle with PTSD everyday, I will never regret my years jumping on the rig and running in to help extinguish chaos.

The other bug in the room, the one that was rarely discussed or even seen as a priority, was PTSD. People in the emergency services aren’t good at looking after themselves. I’m living proof of this.

“I can’t help but think that the number people with PTSD is higher when you factor in the undiagnosed. “

There is a silver lining in the dark storm clouds of nightmares and hypervingilance, PTSD is becoming more acceptable. Great news for all of us, especially for those places that have peer support programs and easier access to professional help. But, what if your emergency service doesn’t have such things in place? What is one to do?

Symptoms of PTSD

Well, I can only offer up lessons of my own inner battle, a battle I now know, I should have waged years before I did. Although grateful to still be here, its a struggle everyday. I share my experience through this blog, here’s a post you might enjoy: The Power of PTSD – Overtaken

First of all, no matter what your buddies say, post traumatic stress is not something that can be buried. It’s buried alive and will eventual claw its way the surface. For many, it will exact it will exact its revenge.

CBC’s The Nature of Things explain some facts about PTSD in their article; PTSD: Canada Has the Highest rate, plus eight more surprising facts; In this article they indicate that 9.2% of Canadians will experience PTSD at some juncture in their lives. This number is the hightest in the world!

So, What dose this tell us? Well it demonstrates, at least to me that PTSD is real and can happen to you. I can’t help but think that the number people with PTSD are higher when you factor in the undiagnosed.

Now that we know post traumatic stress is a thing; the question becomes who’s taking care of you? Since we know that stigma looms large within the fire service, it is our responsibility. In my own case I knew something wasn’t right for a very long time. In simple terms, if you feel any form of mental discomfort for a pronged period, don’t ignore it.

Different treatment options for PTSD

This was a revelation for me because I came to understand that I am not the only one living my life.

We are now living in an age where there is more help than ever for this debilitating mental health condition, ranging from peer support to government programs. With that said, prevention is still the area where we need to work harder on. In Nova Scotia we have a crisis response team to help debrief emergency service workers following a critical incident. A prevention option that was severally under utilized in my department.

Although it should be the fire service leaders who put preventive measures in place, it is incumbent on us to ensure our own wellbeing. I came to this conclusion when I realized that my family, my support system have an emotional investment in my health. This was a revelation for me because I came to understand that I am not the only one living my life.

Who’s taking care of you?

Whatever encourges you to get help, if you know you need it, do it. Find your reason to get better. You got this! Your pride and fear could quite possible have dire concequences…. Trust me.

If you are a firefighter in Nova Scotia and are in need a debrief, visit the Critical Incident Stress Management for the fire service in Nova Scotia. Or for individual treatment go here: Dr. Jeffery Holsick, trauma Specialist