Anyone who knows me, knows that I am the type of person who “doesn’t stop”. You know, that person who can’t watch a movie and just sit through it. That person who has a list of 50 things to do all the time. That person who multi-tasks constantly because they can’t just focus on one thing. That person who never just “has a lazy day” or sits on the couch longer than an hr because they just…can’t.
I had always experienced what I called “crashes”. Basically, imagine a battery that is over charged. It is put in a toy which then runs beyond its capacity and the motor of the toy eventually burns out and falls over. That is what a crash would look like for me. I would work myself so hard for so long, that eventually my body would be unable to sustain the speed I was going and I would crash, meaning I would either get sick or essentially have an emotional mental breakdown. It would almost be like a system restart, in which after a few days, I would feel refreshed and re-energized and start the process all over.
Until two weekends ago, when the “system re-start” never happened. I did not realize how long and how hard I had been pushing myself between a job infused with crisis and trauma, my biological parents coming back into my life and spreading myself thin between advocacy work, public speaking and volunteering. I found myself one day unable to get out of bed. I was unable to face the world. I didn’t know who to call, and I didn’t know what was happening. It was like a big dark cloud of “I just can’t anymore” came over me. The “system re-start” never came…I waited for it…and a week later, getting out of bed was still a challenge. Something I never experienced before.
When I brought up my “crashes” to my previous doctor, he responded by asking if I had friends. Needless to say, that conversation ended abruptly and I never spoke about my mental health again. I just dealt with it, thinking what I was experiencing was normal enough for a doctor not to consider serious. My sister helped me get a new doctor after my mental health continued to worsen that weekend. After a 40 minute session (I had never met with a doctor that long…) several questions by the nurse and doctor and two questionnaires, I was formally diagnosed with anxiety/depression.
I experienced a deep fear about going on medication, but at one point the doctor said something that truly resonated me; “So, you meditate, you practice yoga, you see a naturopath, you’re active and eat relatively well…you’re doing everything I would tell someone to do before looking at medication, so I guess my question is why aren’t we trying medication?”
My body was tired. I finally said out loud what I had never said to anyone. “It’s exhausting living this way. I have managed my anxiety since university because I wanted to do it on my own. I have managed the crashes that came with my anxiety exhausting my body to the point of it being unable to keep up. I have managed it this long…but I am exhausted. I don’t know what it is like not to think about more than one thing, or not to be instantly panicked or stressed about the smallest thing…it’s exhausting trying to keep managing my anxiety”.
To which the doctor looked at me empathetically and said “It is…and what if there was something that could help you bring your anxiety from a 10, to a 5, where it feels more manageable and takes less of your energy to cope with?”
I had never thought about what living without or decreased anxiety and depression would feel like. Well, actually I had, but I did not think I could actually live like that.
The doctor then spent the time to address every fear I had about medication. In the end, I left with a months worth of Cipralex and a follow-up appointment in 3 weeks.
I gave myself permission to start anti-depressants.
In the following weeks, I gave myself permission to step away from all the “extras”. The public speaking, the advocacy work and my volunteering positions. I gave myself permission to focus on my personal life, my mental health and my job.
I gave myself permission to speak openly with my supervisor and tell her I was struggling. To which I was lucky to have been met with nothing but support.
I realized during my longest and hardest “crash” and the journey that followed, that I needed to make changes. Not only with my outside world, but my internal world as well.
I needed to make peace with giving myself permission.
Permission to watch a movie. Permission to have a lazy day. Permission to meet myself where I was at. I needed to start giving myself permission to not perform at 100% all the time. I needed to give myself permission to rely on other people and ask for help. I needed to give myself permission to not be hard on myself when I did not match up to my expectations.
The following weekend, was a long weekend. When I returned to work, the question “What did you do during your long weekend?” was asked to me. To which I responded…
I slept and watched movies.