A Day in the Life…of Mental Illness

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Originally I had planned on writing something else for my next post, but decided to focus on a recent experience I had instead.

One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to educate people about mental illness. It is real, and it can be debilitating.

I have depression, anxiety and OCD. They tend to feed off of each other, worsen the symptoms attached to each. As stated in my last couple of posts, I’m not doing very well right now. When my OCD goes haywire, I get really depressed. When I’m really depressed, my anxiety skyrockets. It becomes a monumental task to leave my house. It’s not that I want to be alone. I think that’s something people don’t realize. They think that people with mental illness want to be alone. Believe me, the last thing in the world I want is to be alone. I want to have friends, I want to go out, I want to socialize. I’m sure there are people with multiple sclerosis who want to go for a jog, who want to run a marathon. But they can’t. Just like there are things I can’t do when my depression and anxiety are so bad.

Thursday night I was supposed to go to this class/meeting with some other members of my church. I’d already been to one meeting, and the other people there were so great. I felt like they truly cared about me. I had been looking forward to this next meeting, yet at the same time I was ridiculously anxious about leaving my house and being around other people. I told myself it would be okay, reminded myself that they were great people who cared and wanted to help me. It did no good. Reason usually doesn’t when you suffer from mental illness.

Less than an hour before the meeting I had a panic attack—the worst one I’ve ever had. I thought I was going to end up in the hospital. I started hyperventilating so bad, each breath I barely sucked in strangled and labored. Then the world began to spin, and it felt as if my head was floating above my body. I knew I was going to pass out.

I thought about calling my ex-husband, who was supposed to be coming over soon to watch the kids while I went to my meeting, then I thought about calling 911. Then I thought about my crappy insurance and how much it might cost me to do that, so instead I got myself to the couch, rationalizing it would be a better place to pass out than standing in the hallway. I sat down and told myself to breathe—or breathe normally. But I couldn’t. It was terrifying—having my mind tell my body to do something and my body refusing to do it. I again thought about calling 911—it would be better than passing out and having one of my kids find me. I’d never been so scared in my life. Then, somehow, my breathing finally slowed, became easier, and I didn’t pass out. After a few minutes the light-headedness passed, and I was no longer dizzy or shaking. Just writing about what happened, having to think about it, is so damn hard. But this is what it’s like to live with mental illness.

I have different theories as to why I’m in such a bad place right now. One of those theories stems from something a friend said when I was talking to her about what was going on in my life. I think it warrants further research first, but maybe I’ll write about it later. As for now, I’m going to see if I can get on some medication that will work without turning me into an insomniac zombie—as some other medications have done. I’m going to look into other options/therapies that may help as well. I want to get out of this dark place. But it can take time—just like it would take time for someone, anyone, to find a light switch in a large, pitch-black room full of obstacles. But I’m going to try. It’s the best I have right now.

Try Again

Today I listened to a song by Audiomachine called Try Again Tomorrow. It got me thinking about something that’s been on my mind for awhile now, and I figured it was time to finally write about it.

We’ve all heard the famous quote Yoda tells Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, right? “Do, or do not. There is no try.” I recently watched a movie on Mindfulness (another subject I’ll probably get to one of these days) that used this quote. I really love the other concepts Mindfulness teaches, and I love Yoda and Star Wars, but this quote has always sort of bugged me.

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The way I look at it, if there is only doing or not doing, then there’s only success or failure, and that would mean I fail A LOT. Mental illness makes “doing” so much harder. Sometimes I don’t do, but not for lack of trying. Really, trying is an act of doing, isn’t it? I’m sure we all also know the proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Today I tried getting my son to play a board or card game with me. He didn’t want to. But the fact that I was even able to motivate myself enough to try was huge! I’ve been in a very bad place lately. My depression, anxiety and OCD have all been extremely debilitating. I’ve retreated to getting lost in books or watching shows on my computer, leaving my son to play games on his tablet all afternoon. I feel horrible when I do that, feel like I’m being the worst mom in the world, but my mental illness is so bad, I don’t do anything about it. But today I tried, and just because I wasn’t successful, doesn’t mean I won’t be tomorrow.

And beyond that, maybe it isn’t always about succeeding or failing. Maybe it’s about the journey, the lessons, about simply living life. But that’s a whole other subject, worthy of its own post. Stay tuned . . . !