My mental wellness journey has been fraught with challenges that have brought my life to a halt at times.
I believe that it all started in childhood. Although I was too young to understand mental illness, it was evident at the time that something was going on that was more intense than many of my classmates. I was prone to anger outbursts, and was very disruptive. I would come to understand that the anger was a manifestation of what was going on inside, a persistent sadness.
This constant sadness would tag along for life and I would be forced to climb this mountain more than once. I believe I developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a teen. GAD came with its own mountain to climb. I always found myself between feeling anxious, sad and lonely.
THIS CONSTANT SADNESS WOULD TAG ALONG FOR LIFE.
In adulthood I finally descended these mountains, ending up in the valley of normality, enjoying a long period of happiness. This was because I had found my purpose and pursued it. I had entered college, enrolled in addictions counselling and really enjoyed it, it felt great to be heading in the direction I was passionate about, I always want to help others.
Had I been wiser in my youth, I would have known to keep an eye on those mountains, looming in the background waiting for me, as if they knew that I would one day stand before them, having to scale them once more. In my mind however, It felt as though the turbulent years I had experienced in my youth were well behind me. I settled into this valley of everyday living, got married, eventually had children and found employment helping others. I also spent fifteen years as a volunteer firefighter, which I also loved.
It was not until my late 20s that I started to feel something awakening inside me, a familiar feeling that lay dormant for many years. There was also a new mountain to conquer, one that had not been there previously. This mountain’s name? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a foe I would eventually tackle.
I HAD TO ASCEND THEM, CONQUER THEM, WIN.
What brought these feelings boiling to the surface was the social expectations that were placed upon me; the pressures of home ownership, raising children, working all the time and seldom stopping to take a look at the beautiful valley all around me. All these factors coupled with the firefighting and my occupation which was violent and constantly stimulating, led me to the foot of two of the mountains, anxiety and depression. I had to ascend them, conquer them, win.
I ran for the hills and was determined to defeat these mountains, the fire service taught me that some situations are do or die, so when it came down to do or die in my life, I choose do.
I sought out resources available to me, taking leave from work, going to therapy and a psychiatrist. I tried medication, with little effect. I found therapy very beneficial. Perhaps the biggest success was the recognition that if I were to survive, I must make some monumentally difficult changes in my life. I could no longer live in the life that had taken me so long to build. So, for the sake of my mental health, I went it alone, and raised my children in a co-parenting sense.
Living alone shaved off a lot of the day-to-day troubles I had previously experienced, this resulted in a stronger tolerance for the day to day stressors. I changed my position at work which resulted in a further stress reduction. These changes gave me the tools to scale the mountain sides, reach the peaks and settle into another valley. Unfortunately like every place I settled, I found myself staring up at these mountains wondering how I would summon the strength to climb them again. This time, the tragedies that came with being in the fire service and the death and violence I encountered at work would take its toll, and as result I found myself taking leave from work again.
This would has been a constant theme in my life, taking on what the world expected of me only to have it irritate my conditions much like scratching an open wound. My attempts to maintain social expectation would only cause me to slip further into illness, placing me on the sidelines of my life two more times, two more goes at those mountains made it clear that I had to renegotiate my relationship with the modern world and live for me.
I’m not ashamed that I don’t possess the endurance to keep the engine of the what’s expected of me running. I am done apologizing for taking time for myself when I need it, self-care is a priority.
It’s unfortunate in that it has taken me so long to learn how to work within my tolerances. Now 43, I’m getting to know my limits. I am currently off for the longest leave from work. I found myself disabled by a series of circumstances that were overwhelming and tragic. I had witnessed a death. Although I had witnessed death many times, this death gave birth to PTSD. This incident became the catalyst for my mental health demise. My decline made it clear to me that I needed more help.
I KNEW I WOULD NEVER SURVIVE WITHOUT THERAPEUTIC RELIEF.
Now, on workers compensation, I am on my journey to wellness; I now have official diagnoses for my mental health conditions and thus getting appropriate treatments for them.
The process of getting the help I needed while I am not able to work was lengthy and impacted my health and I knew I would never survive without therapeutic relief.
I’ve spent my life helping others and have always loved writing and so my blog was born, “The Road To Mental Wellness.”
As I began to write, I found it more and more therapeutic. Writing brings me around to the present and keeps me there, reducing the mental pain, flashbacks, and numb feelings that come with PTSD. It calms my anxiety and depression.