Somehow, I underestimated the speed of my recovery.
When I first started this blog, The Road To Mental Wellness, I was certain that I would beat mental illness. Not only was I sure that I would get to the end of my wellness journey, I anticipated that I would be cured by now.
One might say “How can one predict a swift recovery when battling a mental health condition?” That’s a great question. It would turn out I grossly underestimated its strength. When I knew this battle lay at my feet, I was relieved in a sense because I was no stranger to being debilitated by a psychiatric disorder.
Really, I should have known at its onset that this was no ordinary roadblock in life. Considering I am battling not one but three mental illnesses, it’s a monumental fight that will force me to go the distance.
Never run off entangled in a mental mess without figuring out a plan to free yourself.
My forecast was indeed short-sighted; it was predicted on my previous dances with anxiety. When I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, I systematically kicked its ass. I beat it by applying the same tools and principles I’m using today. So why am I not seeing progress?
So what are these tools and principles? Well, in short, I do whatever it takes to get better. “But John, what do you mean?” Well, let’s go back to when my anxiety was winning and I was off work the first time.
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I work with persons with severe mental disabilities and behavioral difficulties. Sounds stressful right? It is a unique environment, one that easily cultivates an anxiety disorder. I love my job but unfortunately so did my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). To add more complication to the matter, I was also a volunteer firefighter. Essentially dealing with death and destruction at every turn.
Whatever it takes means that you make yourself vulnerable enough to seek out the help you need, to finally do the right thing for you.
And, as we all know, work is but one dimension of life. My personal life suffered from my ailment and inevitably, it also played a role in my decline. I ended up in this negative, anxiety- and environmentally-driven feedback loop that accumulated to the degree where something had to give. It morphed into a mental health emergency. I knew I something had to give and let me tell ya, I wasn’t about to give up my life. So faced with the prospect of ending it all, I parted ways with my life and walked off the job and right into stress leave. I also made drastic changes to my personal life.
Being fully aware that I was teetering on the edge, I knew that if I were to survive this ever-present demon that I would need a plan. If there’s a lesson for you in my own mental wellness journey, it’s to never run off entangled in a mental mess without figuring out a plan to free yourself.
Whatever it takes means that you make yourself vulnerable enough to seek out the help you need, to finally do the right thing for you. In my case, I sought the help of a psychiatrist for medication and when he offered up referrals for counseling and a mood group I said yes! I read extensively about the mental health benefits of clean eating and exercise, so guess what? I said yes to that too.
By saying yes, I turned away from the path of this mental health emergency toward the road to mental wellness. It was a six-months’ journey but nonetheless I did recover. After this, I went back to work and did really well for a long time.
come hell or high water I will get there.
Sadly, despite all the progress, I was never able to completely eradicate the beast within. That said, I was winning the battles with all my new coping tools. I managed but started to realize that my amour was wearing thin. Near the end, I knew that I was badly damaged and needed help.
When I came face to face with my last traumatic incident I relented, fell to my knees and crawled my way out of my workplace. The only thing I knew is that I had finally fallen victim to post traumatic stress disorder. At least, that was what I suspected.
My suspicions were proven to be true as I was officially diagnosed with PTSD by a psychologist. So, there I was and still am fighting the biggest mental battle of my life. Still off work and with little progress made, I have to look at it and say no wonder this is a longer fight.
When you read through the literature on PTSD you see the word “debilitating” a lot, and indeed that’s true. Comparing the two mental-health conditions and the two paths to healing is foolish of me. Does this mean that this time I won’t make my way back? Of course not. This round, it’s a much higher mountain to climb, but come hell or high water I will get there. I will win.
Please note: if you think you may have PTSD, please contact your health care provider and talk to them. I highly recommend you request a referral to your mental health services.
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You may also enjoy: PTSD: The Impact Of Stigma On Firefighters