World mental health day, Prozac, writing and me
Every year World Mental Health Day is observed on the 10th October. One day to highlight a massive problem. There is often no visible signs that someone is suffering until their body complains, they do something because they can’t cope and then it is too late.
Anxiety and depression can affect anyone.
When I was in the corporate world mental health was not discussed, but as a manager, I was acutely aware when people around me were not coping. Many a private conversation, a cuppa and a walk in the fresh air has helped someone have the space to be heard and to be empowered to take some other action towards better health. I am proud to be a listener without judgement.
This is not always the case when you work alone, or you are living with others whose needs always come first.
A few years ago, I found myself in front of the doctor complaining that despite the many miles I trudged every day with my dog, I couldn’t breathe. He asked me some questions, and suddenly there was a space to be heard.
We talked about who I was living with, what the relationship was like, work and general health. I explained that for the last two years I’d struggled with sleep and had tried everything I could think of. He laughed at the comprehensive list I handed over. He glanced over it and said quietly ‘you have anxiety and it is no wonder.’
Walking away with a prescription for Prozac felt like the end of the world. Having been a party animal I was used to abusing my body for fun, this felt very different.
Now I was a failure.
Two days into my new drug habit, I was ringing the doctor. ‘I feel weird this is happening.’ I was panicking that this ‘stuff’ was destroying me. She calmly explained that I probably have a virus.
I felt a fool.
Before long I was sleeping, and a calm descended. Deep inside I was ashamed of giving in, and although I didn’t want anyone to know, I found myself sharing with two friends. Never before had I sought external validation, but now it was vital. I wanted them to tell me that it was ok.
They did, and it was, I was ok.
At the start of taking them, I had an exit strategy. Changing my diet and writing as ever helped. Pouring my heart into my writing and writing creative short stories was fun.
I was a bit silly with my diet and cut practically everything that could possibly be an allergen to anyone, ever. Losing vast quantities of weight did nothing for my skin, and my skinny legs looked more match like every day. I didn’t love me so I couldn’t and didn’t look in the mirror. I tried but to no avail.
I was ugly.
Christmas came, and we were going to Spain to work on my house. Shortly into the holiday I took my daily pill and vomited. Staring into the bowl, repulsed by the small and what I had become, I decided no more pills; there had to be a better way.
Back home and I thought I could cope.
By February his almost 90-year-old mother who needed help with everything and had dementia came to live. Two months passed and living with a bully and this woman who appeared to hate me was taking its toll. ‘I’m going to take Prozac again, I told him, I can’t cope.’ He couldn’t care less. As long as he could do what he wanted he was ok.
His bullying never stopped, passive aggression should have been his middle name. I explained several times that he was a bully and that it needed to end. All he did was to turn the tables and call me a bully; he was a lost cause when it came to empathy. He was the sort of person that if you said something one day, he would go on about it for days. He was like a dog with a bone.
He told me he enjoyed finding someone’s weak spot and turning the knife. I decided to try and ignore him and his silly behaviour. Every day he said something about sucking his cock or some other inane sexist comment. He was driving me nuts. I found that I was losing my temper because of his endless berating. When I did sit him down to tell him that I was unhappy and felt unloved, he managed possibly a day and then was back to his weird self.
It was another year and another Christmas, and we decided to take his mum to Spain. More importantly, it was decided that I would take her on an economy class plane (old women, wheelchair, dementia and poor toilet habits) and he would drive with the dog and his son. I coped because she couldn’t have done it without me and I wanted this sad old lady who hated me to have some happiness.
The apartment we’d booked fell through, and so we stayed with my mum while he caught up with us and then we all went to my house in the hills.
A house that was not ready for us.
Lying awake one evening staring at the ceiling I knew it was time for me to die. While everyone slept, I Googled ways of killing yourself. They all looked painful. What the fuck can I do I screamed silently into the slumbering beams?
I wasn’t meant to die, but I was dead inside.
Not long after and following his mother’s death, I decided to wean myself off Prozac (again) and try to get back to some normality. I had a business to get back up and running, for what it was worth and products to create and launch. Nothing worked, my time was (again) not my own, I was utterly disrespected and unable to get my work done. I couldn’t work out how I was not able to work and why he thought it was acceptable to interrupt me constantly. Everything seemed so far away and unattainable.
One bright point was that a visit to the doctors revealed that I’d had an overactive thyroid and through dietary changes, I had resolved it.
I felt vindicated, that’s why among other things I wasn’t sleeping.
If hindsight were a currency, I would be rich. Slowly but surely over just a few years my sense of self had been eroded and despite the freedom, I thought I had, I had become incarcerated and controlled, and I let it happen. I can now see that the stress from previous unresolved issues, looking after his mother, the Prozac and my endless romantic dreams of being in love (as it turns out with the notion of love) had kept me diluted. Without Prozac to blunt my senses I was starting to realise that this might not be the ideal place to be, and that scared me. Apparently not enough to listen to my inner voice. I remained loyal, loving, kind and blind.
The Universe has other ideas about my blindness, and when I discovered he was and had always been living a highly promiscuous double life, I was catapulted into a new life and a way of being.
Writing for my soul
Through all of this, I wrote, and I wrote and did it a bit more, I still do.
I won’t lie, writing hasn’t always been easy. I have cried and cried as I have journaled. Equally, I have screamed with hysterical laughter as I have re-read my creative life stories and plotted the demise of others who I felt had hurt me.
Throughout all of my journalling, reflecting and other kinds of writing, I never expected to be pushed into a pit of hell, I thought I was ok to tackle big subjects – me. Writing has taken me into some dangerous places where I have I rested letting the poison spread. I have continued to push my pen more and more learning to connect to my heart. And then it got easier, the pain in my chest eased, and the path ahead began to shine.
Writing is a journey with your soul, writing can and does help you to heal. Everyone who writes does at some level move on. You may be writing about an adventure, crisis, a life changing event or a single fleeting moment in time, but in the setting out of your personal story, you are connecting to you at a deep level.
Writing is an escape and a safe passage into a new life and the next part of the journey.
Start today, get a journal, put it beside your bed, write when it suits you. Let it flow. Write anything, one word, just start.
So while World Mental Health Day is focusing on what is happening in the workplace, which can be like being thrown into a vipers nest. Please look around you, one of your friends could be where I was. You might be there now. How I wish I’d known how to ask for help and have had the courage to leave sooner.
101 days of being me
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