Well, here we are at another healthcare post. I swear, 50% of this blog is me talking about medical issues. But I think that it’s important to talk about the stuff that nobody wants to talk about, because otherwise it always seems like we’re going through something unique all alone, which is pretty much never true. But my brain is really foggy and unfocused right now, so I have no idea how this will turn out or if you’ll be able to follow. At any rate…
Stuff I’ve learned this week:
1 in 6 mental health crises are due to workplace issues. That’s too many for me to accept the notion that I should hide this. Mental illness is still stigmatized, but it shouldn’t be if that many people are struggling with their jobs (which of course they are because humans were never designed to live like this). I came out at work that I was sick with a nervous breakdown, just like I would tell the truth if I’d had a heart attack or a broken leg. We don’t have short term disability (which should really be renamed, because STD sounds like something you wouldn’t want at a workplace when you actually should) so I’m using FMLA leave to get my brain functioning again, and I’m not going back until I feel like I can do the job I’m paid to do again. I started wanting to die instead of going to work, and I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be ashamed of that when the environment is as toxic as it is. Absolutely everyone has been very kind to me about it, and I don’t have to hold the shame (or mental cohesiveness) of a secret, which is too much for me to handle right now anyway.
New meds can do super-weird things to your brain. For example, last night I accidentally made cupcakes. Yes, accidentally. See, I keep winding up at events that serve desserts I can’t eat because they have gluten and/or dairy in them, so I’ve had a growing urge for chocolate ganache, as I sadly pass up the pretty pastries. Last night after I dropped Jim off for his trip to Boston, I was rummaging in the cabinet for a snack and found these really bland gluten free cookies, so l decided that I would make some dairy free ganache (literally just some almond milk and a chopped up dark chocolate bar melted in the microwave & stirred, with a dash of salt at the end) to spread on the cookies and make them better – which I did. Except that by the time I finished making the ganache, I had forgotten about the cookies and I was all, “Why the hell did I just make a whole cup of chocolate goo? What am I going to do with it?” So I rummaged in a different cabinet and found expired gluten free cake mix and decided I’d make cupcakes or something. Which I did, adding a bit of extra baking powder to accommodate the expiration problem, and then I sat down on the couch and waited for them to bake.
At which point I realized that I’m home alone all week and not working, and I now have 18 gluten free cupcakes, which have an edible lifespan of about 48 hours, and nobody to share them with, and I only really wanted one cupcake. So now, instead of “why did I just make ganache?” I was left pondering, “why on earth did I just make cupcakes, and what the hell am I going to do with them?” (answer: probably freeze them) In other words: accidental cupcakes.
Which is all to say that while the new medication seems to be affording me a certain amount of volition, it’s not offering any focus or linear thinking/problem solving skills to accompany it. Which is probably why a lot of suicides happen right after a medication change. Don’t worry, I’m being careful. But this is also why I’m on leave. I can’t do my job if I’m losing track of what I’m doing this easily. I deal with academic petitions and confidential information, and that’s too important for me to lose someone’s paperwork and accidentally make cupcakes instead. Also I seem to be having panic attacks at semi-predictable times every day, which really doesn’t work in a customer-facing job.
There are a lot of resources for when you’re crashing, but they aren’t where you’re looking. Finding a new Psychiatrist is a joke, especially when you need one now. Because there’s a massive shortage, and the insurance industry still doesn’t treat mental illness as an illness, so what Psychiatrists there are often don’t work with insurance companies. The good news:
- There is a thing called a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, who can help with medication issues. I’m seeing one at the crisis center until I can be shoehorned into a practice, but I’d be perfectly happy to just see her forever. The more time I spend with NPs, the more I prefer them to doctors, because they listen and have empathy and aren’t in it for the ego trip.
- This is too hard to figure out alone. Call a crisis hotline, or go to the Health & Human Services Mental Health site for immediate resources. If you don’t want to talk to people on the phone, you can also go to this services locator and find all the resources in your area. If all of that is too much, enlist a friend or family member. If that’s too much, you should probably call 911 right now, because you’re in worse shape than you realize, especially if you’re thinking about how nice it would be to be not alive right now.
- This is a serious illness, and it is eligible for leave from work, school, etc. while you figure it out. All of it will wait, and that happening is much better than dying, even if it fucks with your plans.
I am a fucking badass. I have endured sexual abuse, rape, assault, emotional abuse, abandonment, and a veritable shit-bouquet of other traumas. I have PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Most people like me are unable to sustain relationships, and are trapped in some form of addiction (which is pretty much why I can’t watch Jessica Jones even though it’s really good). I’ve been in therapy for the better part of my life, and the return on that is that I know when I’ve gone too far and my feelings are out of my control and I need to get help. I know that hitting a wall is usually actually a stair step higher than I was prepared for, and I can see it as an opportunity for growth, even if the process is bullshit. I’m in a happy marriage with a supportive spouse who is an active partner in my healing process, and helps me confront things like shame and overwhelm and irrational terror with grace and kindness. I have a kid who appears to be a successful adult and is more or less free of the generational cycle of abuse. I’m doing better than most, and still I struggle and fall. Not to say that I’m better than anyone who is trapped in addiction or abusive relationship cycles, just that I have worked for long enough to have earned some perspective and I’m grateful for it. Usually I’m sort of embarrassed to be me, but the crisis counselor was genuinely blown away by how functional I am despite my breakdown, and how able I am to speak for what’s happening to me rather than from it. Go me! I rock at breakdowns, woo!
This is survivable. I know that most of the people who read this know me and know a lot of this (though I’m not talking much these days, so this also serves as a sort of an update). But I also hope that someone somewhere stumbles on this when they’re lost and don’t know what to do and at the end of their rope and finds their way to help, because even though it feels like a hole you can’t get out of, you totally can. And you will, because nothing stays the same even if you want it to (and hey, who WOULDN’T want to hang out in this pit forever, right?). But first you have to ask for help. And then you have to let go and trust that instead of falling further, you will rise. I totally believe in you – you can do this thing. Ten seconds at a time.
If random encouragement from a stranger doesn’t help, go read this, because cartoons about depression are somehow really comforting.