I Thought I’d be Cured By Now

Cured by now

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 relived 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, 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?

How to treat anxiety

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 sever mental disabilities and behavioral difficulties, sound 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. Essential 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 roll 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, its 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.

Benefits of a good diet and exercise on mental health

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.

Cured by now

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 will 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, 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: that 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.

Want help fund my book? donate: GOFundMe – The Road To Mental Wellness – The book

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You may also enjoy: PTSD: The Impact Of Stigma On Firefighters

Impending Danger PT 2

In part one of Impending danger: Psychological shock, I talk about how my fight, flight or freeze system is always engaged because of the hypervigilance that accompanies post-traumatic stress disorder and how it impedes me from living a full life. My mind is always combined my firefighting past with the present; off work and struggling with mental illness me. So then, how am I moving on?

More on Fight, Flight or Freeze

Well, I believe that the odds of success are more likely if one has a plan. In my case, my plan goes far beyond taking a pill and hoping for the best. The complexities of PTSD are far greater than “pill to make it better” approach. Nothing about this mental health journey I am on is easy, I accept it; for better or for worse it’s amalgamated itself within every fibre of my being.

You maybe wonder at this point; “OK John, What’s the plan?” Well, in order to increase my odds of beating this monster, I had to open up to the many options out there. I looked into and otherwise read about many potential options. Word of advice; if you’re looking for answers too, don’t take whatever you see on the internet and run with it. that could end up being a recipe for disaster. Rather, look for commonalities in your search. For example, through all the research I have done and it’s been a lot, on better health, sleep almost always comes up. Therefore, I try taking sleep very seriously.

The absolutely crucial need for sleep tops my agenda of how I attempt to move on. The lack of sleep makes every symptom of PTSD, depression and anxiety so much worse. Noise, the hypervigilance and the startle response are all intensified when I am exhausted. My psychiatrist and I are working to try to quell the nightmares and help me sleep with medications.

I try to eat well and I exercise four days a week. Both of these are essential to symptoms management and are key to my survival. Isolation, for me, is essential but there is a fine line between healthy alone time and out-and-out hiding from the world. I have learned that, like it or not, I need social connection. I find that I end up really enjoying the company of those I care for.

Getting to know my internal conflict, that with mental illness, I have sadly but rightfully come to the conclusion that I am not the man I used to be. I can no longer successfully integrate myself in the wider world like I once was able to do. I have learned that I am too easily overstimulated to tolerate any length of time in a public setting. So, for now, I force myself outside of my comfort zone but know when enough is enough. I am learning how to cope better through mindfulness.

Ways of coping with mental illness.

So in the face of Impending danger, how are you moving forward? Man, it sure isn’t easy, but it is so worth every battle you face.  Whether it’s with your interior world or the external one around you, you are struggling with, learning good coping skills and other techniques will help you win your life back.

Forgot to read part one? Impending danger: Psychological shock PT.1

Did you enjoy this blog post? Check out: Spontaneous Mental Combustion

As a bonus resource, check out: anewdawnaa.com

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Getting Through Tough Times

In my experience mental illness episodes come and go and range in their seventy. They range from feeling slightly numb, anxious with a tiny sense of dread, to a debilitating, bedroom ridden lockdown where all I can see are the unpleasant memories that have accumulated over the years.

I hate these darker, totally reclusive days because I feel like they are sucking the life right out of me, essentially, I suppose that’s exactly what they are doing. With all that said, I always come through them to enjoy happier days, so when I am in this darkened place, I tell myself to ride the scary wave to its conclusion. There are always better days.

Thankfully, I don’t experience this level of mental pain all that often and when I do, it tends to be one day then I’m back on my feet; I may not be a hundred percent, but I can function well enough to force myself out the door.

What then gives me the ability to spring back from the edge? Two things, the tools I have learned and my willingness to acquire knowledge. They both take me steps further down the road to mental wellness. The following are a few things I employ to minimize the odds of the debilitating days:

Diet- Research has shown time and time again that diet and mental health go hand in hand. I eat mostly a plant-based diet. I have more energy and it lowers my anxiety to a level where I can manage the tough times much easier. I have an overall sense of happy when I eat better… Mental health benefits of a plant-based diet. I am not trying to convert anyone, I have found this eating style works best for me. Essentially, the better the food the better the mood.
Learn how to run

Exercise – As far as I am concerned, when it comes to managing anxiety, depression and other mental disorders, noting tops a good run or workout. I often refer to running and lifting as mother nature’s medication. For me, exercise and mental health fundamental. For example, a good jog increases blood flow to the brain, optimizing its function and thus reducing mental illness symptoms. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I can feel my mental health improve with each step and with every rep; give it a try.

Seeing friends and family – Family and friends are of the absolute importance to my mental health recovery, they have been the fuel that keeps propelling me forward. We are wired for connection, Social connection gives us a sense of purpose. Upon learning about this fact, I incorporated it into my wellness plan. Essentially, I force myself out of my home and make plans with those I care for most. 

Within these three staples that make up the bulk of my mental wellness plan, there are so many options for success. Diet you can flex a bit, In my case I go back and forth from veganism and vegetarianism; Exercise can totally be on your terms. Although it’s great to have a plan, you can fill it full of exercises you enjoy. They can be whatever you’re capable of. Keep in mind that exercise for men and women is a bit different.

The importance of human connection

 I lift light and run 10 to 15mins max, four days a week; Social connection can be making yourself go out to dinner with a good friend, going to a play with a  coworker or making memories with the family at home. Go for it, especially when your mental health condition flares, I’m betting you, most times, won’t regret it.

So, there you have it, these things get me through tough times. Why not give them a try to see which ones work best for you?

If you are suffering from PTSD, please reach out. I thank you for your service and you are still worthy and mean something. I believe in you!

If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada

Want help fund my book? donate: GOFundMe – The Road To Mental Wellness – The book