Everyone’s Wellness Road Is Different

I like to think that everyone’s mental wellness journey is different; like a mental fingerprint, they all vary in the way they present themselves from person to person. And the road that I walk upon is no exception, its pain customizes by my own life experience.

Just as my mental health conditions have grown and manifested according to my life’s path, maybe genetically, certainly experientially, neurologically and, most definitely pharmaceutically. As if my mental illnesses weren’t enough, I was also diagnosed with epilepsy when I was thirteen.  Fortunately for me, the medication I was put on has completely controlled my seizures. I am grateful for this because the degree to which I have responded to the medication has not been lost on me in terms of the significant and positive impact it has had on my entire life.

Carbamazepine, an anticonvulsant medication designed to reduce or prevent seizures, has been a miracle drug for me. It has proven its value by eliminating my seizures to zero. I have been seizure-free since 1994.

However, this miracle drug is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has allowed me to live a full and complete life in terms of work,  driving,  being a firefighter etcetera. But… On the other hand, it has left one hell of a mess in the mental health department. 
Fun fact about carbamazepine is that it’s metabolized through the liver. As a result, it loves to produce enzymes that systematically wash out all the drugs I have tried to treat my PTSD, depression and anxiety. I know, fun, right? If that weren’t enough, it also limits the types I can take. This washout renders the antidepressants and the like ineffective. This makes the road to mental wellness a very difficult one to travel down.
 Epilepsy entered into my life at 13, I was frightened by what lied ahead. I hadn’t a clue as to what epilepsy was, how detrimental it could be to my health and if that meant I would be impacted by seizures for the rest of my life. So many things went through my head, overwhelming me with an ocean of uncertainty. 
Now, 30 years later, that same fear of uncertainty has impacted me every day since my diagnosis of PTSD, anxiety and depression. In fact, the further away I get from the last day I worked, the more the fear of the unknown exacerbates my generalized anxiety disorder. What lies ahead for me???

To hear more of my story go here: My podcast with A New Dawn. (website listed below)

Ironically, the same medication that quelled my young mind’s fear of what epilepsy meant for the rest of my life, is the reason I live in limbo today. Several medications for the treatment of mental illness later, here I sit, experiencing little to no effect from them. Sadly, this has only proved to prolong my suffering. Not only from the mental health perspective but also from the side effects each med has produced. Hindering what quality of life I already have; there have been times when I couldn’t drive, interact with my family and had to turn down friends for visits. Every time I go on a new drug and then come off it, I have little choice but to hit the pause button on life.

As murky as the waters of my future maybe, I am determined and my will to live is still strong. I am not out of options nor am I out of ideas. I wasn’t put on this earth to rot in the sea of mental illness so, despite my personal challenges, I carry on.

Now, here’s my challenge, laid out before you. Also, my resolve to have my life back is here for you to see; in fact, it’s on every page this blog.

Your battle, even though it may not feel like it, it is far from over. We got this! Even if you and I have to do it together… I believe you can do this; through your deep down will to live and all the love and passion you possess. Just because we feel like it’s the end doesn’t make it so, that voice in your head feeding your pain doesn’t have to prove victorious. Explore every option.

if you are suffering from PTSD or another mental illness, 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

You may also enjoy:
 Pave New Roads

Contact me on my Facebook page: facebook.com/TRTMW

Check out my friend’s blog here: https://abbeyschronicles.com

Work To Pave New Roads

If your experience is similar to my own, you have had to deal with the ever consistent unpleasantries of mental illness and the impact that it has on your daily life. For as long as I can remember, it has been an overpowering force that can leave me with no choice but to bow down and tap out for a period. I can’t lie, I despise these moments where my mental disorders get the best of me but what can I do? At their peak, I need a day or so to recoup. Chances are I have mentally taxed myself to the point where my mind says “I can’t take it anymore.”

Over time, I have learned the signs of an impending mental low. The symptoms include but are not limited to; severe brain fog, cognitive impairment, short-tempered and an overwhelming sense of dread. I am of the opinion that it is quite OK to drop out of life for a day or maybe two, but at some point in time, I must reintegrate myself with the rest of the world. But how? These darker moments in my wellness journey are constructed by my illnesses telling me to stay home, to not get out of bed. Well, one of the things I have found that works to combat these severe dark days is to pave new roads. I do this by stepping out of my comfort zone.

I’m not one to stray too far from the places in which I am most familiar with, going into the uncharted or rarely explored territory is mentally exhausting, so much so that I tend to shy away from picking up and just and taking off. Despite how mentally taxing this is, last week I decided that the extreme funk I was in need of some sort of new approach. It was a longer and more intense dark period than I normally experience and all the regular things either weren’t working or I wasn’t up for. So I thought to myself; What can I do differently that doesn’t involve other humans?

The day I decided it was time to at least try to turn down the anxiety meter even if it was just a point on the scale, it was a cold but otherwise beautiful day out, so I decided that I would get in my car and go for a drive with no particular destination. So, that’s what I did. Was I feeling up for it? Absolutely not but I went anyway.

It may come as a surprise to some but I have never, not once in my life just got in my car and drove to a random place, one I have never been to, at least not on my own. So, as I embarked on my journey to who knows where I started to feel better. The cab of the car was that perfect warm temperature, that kind that is so comfy that you can’t help but feel better, the music playing in the background also had an impact. It may have been helped along by my very loud karaoke session.

As I headed down this new road, I took in the many open fields and took note of the surrounding mountains in an attempt to live in the moment. Even though I wasn’t in my immediate area, I was still in the valley I grew up in. I could feel the appreciation for the beauty around as the darkness consuming me started being won over by my real self once more.

I travelled for approximately an hour and ended up in a coffee shop where I was just another stranger passing through. Even though my anxiety really hates new places, I almost felt safe knowing that the chances of me running into someone I knew were very small. I think the drive there helped, but also just knowing that I could be around people again and not have to interact with them set me free from the anticipation of having to explain that my illness had flared up. I sipped away at my coffee and watched the unfamiliar world walk by.

Once I had finished, I jumped back into my car and made my way for home, feeling like the magic spell that mental illness cast upon me was starting to wear off and the symptoms associated with its powers over me had dwindled just enough to lift me out of its funk. Indeed, the next day I felt free once more.

So I dared to travel a road less travelled and faced the fears my anxiety produces. As a result, I was able to come out on the other side of the fog rejuvenated and ready for the world. I didn’t think of it at the time, but what I had done in an almost desperate attempt to end my pain was paved a new road in my mental wellness journey. By trying something new I was able to accomplish my goal of paving this new road and as a result, I added another tool to combat my psychological ailments.

A New Destination. 

It seems to me that the biggest power anxiety has over those who suffer, is the power of avoidance, its talent, like a screenwriter is to write a script of a futuristic catastrophe. Therefore, we must find the strength to fight back, recognize avoidance and slowly learn how to combat it. We can do this because we are warriors.

Want more? Please go to my Books On Mental Illness Page.

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


Facebook:  facebook.com/TRTMW