Hey there. It’s been a while. These past two months have been very busy, and intermittently, very impossible. I have bursts of productivity that follow small periods of uselessness and illness.
Physical effects of mental illness are often overlooked. My anxiety can work me up into a panic, which literally makes my chest hurt, which makes me freak out because I think I am having a heart attack. The spiral goes down, down, down, until I’m sure that I will be one of those random cases of 30 year olds that die of heart failure. I terrify myself, researching the internet for anything that will convince me that I’m not going to die. I measure my pulse every five minutes. I breathe deep. I try to calm myself by watching my heartbeat through my left boob (if I lay flat on my back I can see my heartbeat that way), and I count the beats quietly to myself, so that I know I’m okay, despite what I feel like. I have a good friend who was literally admitted to the hospital because of stress and anxiety issues that had a very scary impact on his heart. He is okay, but that scared the shit out of me. Sometimes I am worried I’ll have to drive myself to urgent care, or call an ambulance. I never do call, because something in my brain clicks, and remember that I am just panicking, and it will be over soon.
Have you ever seen or read Breakfast at Tiffany’s? If not, the main character, Holly Golightly, coins the phrase “The Mean Reds”, which is something I am so glad has a name (thanks, Truman Capote!):
“‘No, the blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. You’re afraid, and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of.”
The Mean Reds suck. I wake up some mornings, and I’m so angry. I’m so angry and at the same time, I feel helpless, useless, and apathetic. Apathy and anger are a complete juxtaposition, I know, but somehow I feel them both. My mind defaults to trying to numb these feelings of anger, resentment, and fear, in the form of being physically exhausted to the point of not getting out of bed. Which I then hate myself for. I can’t be bothered to feed myself, wash myself, brush my teeth. I can’t clean anything. I even put off using the toilet for as long as I possibly can. Because I feel like absolute shit. I am exhausted, literally exhausted, like I was weight lifting for two days straight. I feel hunger, but I have no desire for food or drink of any kind. Nothing that I love doing can entice me to get out of bed. I get nothing done for days. I feel like shit for days. Days and days and days of feeling like absolute crap, and the world continues to turn, and I continue to age, and I waste more and more of my own time.
It often feels like no one can really understand what I’m going through, or what I feel, because I don’t really understand it either. I wish so hard that just for one minute, someone could tap into my consciousness and feel my mental and physical pain. Not because I wish this on anyone, but to just have someone feel it too, and to see how they look at me differently then. To see what they will say.
I lost my most recent job because of repeated absences. I get awful migraines (another illness that you cannot know the pain of unless you’ve had one yourself), which are prompted mostly by stress and depression. I hated where I worked, and the job before that, and the one before that one, so I have been dealing with this pain for years. I haven’t had one in a while now, because I have been able to stay home and recharge, but I have recently had to take my emergency migraine pills (which are expensive as all fuck, by the by, thanks Big Pharma!) because I still have bad days. I have never worked anywhere that understood the pain, with the exception of one of my past managers, who was very kind and helpful because she suffered from them too (you know who you are, thank you for everything you did for me).
I’m not sure if you’re reading this because you want to understand these illnesses better, or because you want to know you’re not alone in your pain. If you are part of the former, please please take this to heart. We don’t want to feel like shit. We don’t want to be sick for the attention or to just skip work and enjoy a free day off. We *actually* feel like crap. We need rest, support, time, whatever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called out from work and been literally screamed at over the phone. There was nothing I could say to make them understand. That definitely caused me to feel even worse, and to hate my job even more. Because I was not part of a supportive work environment, and I shouldn’t expect those people to even care about me, but going to the same place every day where no one gives a shit about you can really fuck you up after a while. So if you are in charge of anyone where you work, please remember that they may be having more problems than you think, they may be sicker than you think, and you being pissed off and yelling at them can make the situation worse.
There are a lot of medicines out there to treat these illnesses. I have been on a few different kinds, and the one that has worked consistently for me is Zoloft. The dosage needs adjusted every once in a while, and I know it’s very important that I continue to see my doctor and update her on how I am. I don’t go as often as I should because money’s tight and I haven’t always had insurance; when I do go, I make a list of everything I need to talk about, because when I get in there I forget what to say. Fatigue, muscle pain, insomnia, migraines, irregular eating habits, it all ties in to the depression and anxiety. Unfortunately not every doctor will listen, or believe you; my advice is to get a different doctor. Even if they do prescribe something that works for you, medicine can only fix so much. It’s very important to be as open as possible with your doctors, even about something small. It can make a big difference in how they decide to treat your illness, and will help them to find a solution for you. Going to the doctor is one of the most stressful things, but it could make an enormously wonderful difference in your life, and for your loved ones, who want you to be your happiest self (but don’t know how to help you do that).
I really hope that one day we can find a solution to heal our bodies so we can join the rest of the living. In the meantime, however, I want you to know that if you’re in pain, if you’re fucking exhausted, if you can’t bring yourself to go to work because you feel like shit: you’re not alone. I’ve been there too. I’ll be there again. You and I will get The Mean Reds, and we will get through it, like we always have. You are here, you are reading this, and you’re a god damn champion in my book.
Love you guys.