Surviving Not Thriving

On recognizing mental illness.

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One of the worst things about mental illness is that it tends to creep up on you when you don’t even realize it. If I was aware that I was getting bad again, I would have dedicated time to work on my mental health with mindfulness meditation and self-reflection. But I thought I was doing fine. That is until I went to see my doctor.

I’ve realized that one of the main reasons I dropped out of school with only one practicum left isn’t that I don’t want to be a teacher (I mean, that was pretty significant part of my decision, but I could have gritted my teeth and finished the program), but because I don’t know who I am when I’m not on anti-depressants.

After I got off of my anti depressants, I expected to go back to the stellar state of mental health I acquired before withdrawal. But I haven’t. I’ve been having major issues regulating my emotions which is very unlike me. I am notorious for my cold unemotional nature among friends, family, and even my practicum supervisors (the critique I continually received from them is that I’m robotic). Now I’m losing my temper and crying all the fucking time. I knew that I couldn’t put myself in a position to care for a bunch of kids when I’m having issues like this, so I dropped out.

I told the head of the education department about my withdrawal and feelings of instability, and they agreed to hold my position in the program if I provided them with a doctor’s note verifying that yes, withdrawal is actually fucking awful (hey, that kind of rhymed) and a leave would benefit me for mental health reasons.

So I went to my doctor, and told her about my emotional regulation issues. And she gave me a test to evaluate anxiety and depression. And I scored high on both. And she suggested that after going through the hell of withdrawal that I go back on medication. Sigh. At least she gave me the note.

Although only vaguely aware that I was struggling, I attributed my current feelings of unhappiness to the tumultuous nature of my life right now–dropping out has provided me with an endless amount of judgement and condemnation from friends and family alike. It has affected me more than I’d like to admit. In addition to that, applying to a plethora of jobs has meant that although some places have shown interest in me, I’m getting repeatedly rejected. I also ended a friendship with one of my closest friends because she dropped off the face of the earth when she got a boyfriend which has made me feel like I meant nothing to her after years of being there for her. But I didn’t think I was depressed or anxious again.

I’ve been playing the ukulele, crocheting, and going for walks every day which are things that usually die a fast death when I get depressed. But I hadn’t been going to the gym, reading, or writing. In fact, my last blog post was about forcing myself to write when I didn’t want to. I had interpreted my reluctance to write as laziness, not depression. It was the latter; I can see that now.

But here I am, writing again. It’s part of my plan.

When I saw my therapist last, he walked me out after our session and he asked me what my plan was. I told him to apply for jobs. He responded, “No, not that. What is your plan to cope with everything that’s happened?” Oh. I mumbled something about going to zumba every now and then and left.

But now that I’ve recognized that my state of mental health really is in decline, I realized that I needed to made an actual plan. So I decided to start meditating again, watching what I eat (easier said than done. All I ever want is pizza or sushi), exercising, reading and writing. Most exciting is the latter. Because of my plan, I wrote chapter one of a new manuscript!

I’ve been working on revising the completed manuscript of my other novel for so long, that I haven’t let myself write anything other than short stories and blogs in years. But now, thanks to taking care of my mental health, I’ve started working on this new piece, and I’m so excited about it. What a lovely gift to myself.

I think what I’ve learned from all of this is that even if things seem to be going well, I need to stop and check in with myself at least once a week to evaluate my mental health to prevent decline and promote happiness. Everyone should do this.

In the meantime, I found a job yesterday and I have a date tomorrow!

 

One thought on “Surviving Not Thriving”

  1. Good going and good luck! Dropping out is something I can relate to, many years ago now, when doing a degree in science. What I felt about it was worse than anything anyone could say to me, but it was the right thing to do. It just wasn’t meant to be, even though I got very stuck after that. Much later on moved into arts and humanties (where I was meant to be all along) and got a degree in these. But what is most important is to recognise what a course of action is doing to you, all that inner conflict bringing on depression and anxiety, it’s trying to tell you something if we listen. And we have to listen, despite what people think of us when we change direction. Cheers for now!

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