Over all the years that I have been struggling to manage my mental health issues – there is one thing that continues to throw me off my feet. That is how surprised I have been when I have come face-to-face with well known and well documented issues. The reason it surprised me, is because I have never seen a television show, movie, documentary that explained how I would feel in these moments.
The first time it happened was about 4 years ago and was the only time that I have ever seriously thought about suicide. I was in a toxic work environment, I had a serious drinking problem, on top of which I was overloaded on medications that did not respond well together – but this wasn’t discovered until after the issue had been going on for a while. The thing that surprised me about the way I was thinking was how logical it was. It scared me that my brain could come up with a logical reason as to why I should kill myself. I had just had serious brain surgery; I was deeply in debt and constantly borrowing money from my amazing mum. I felt as though I were a burden to her, financially and emotionally – and she would be better off if I were dead – that way she wouldn’t have to keep paying my bills.
I know now, and she told me then many times, that she would never cope without me.
I had always empathised with people who were dealing with suicidal thoughts – but I did not really understand it until this moment.
It wasn’t until I came off all of the medication that I was able to deal with my mental health issues, and in the back of my mind – I know that it will be easy for my brain to go back to that way of thinking.
The second time was a lot more recent. I began working at a new school as a teacher. After being attacked by a student and experiencing a lack of support from the school – I ended up on form of work injury insurance, with my doctor and independent psychiatrists agreeing that my workplace was not a safe place for me to be in. They did not find me a new work placement – so I have been lucky enough to be paid to recover. Looking back, I have no idea how I was teaching a class and holding it together at all. The levels of anxiety, the panic attacks and the absolute helplessness of the situation really messed me up. For a while, all I wanted to do was sleep, but over time, I have recovered mentally enough to care about something other than my anxieties.
After a number of months of this recovery came the second surprise. My PTSD was triggered by my car being stolen.
As the majority of my anxiety was related to the workplace, I had expected there to be triggers, but I expected there to be triggers at work. I was not expecting it, but I went from beginning to recover to feeling exactly the same way that I did in the last few weeks I was at that school. There is no in between. I have spent the last four weeks either in full blown panic attacks or sleeping. I can be doing something I find relaxing, like playing a video game, and just begin to feel the anxiety building in my chest.
I have worked with my psychologist to learn new strategies to deal with the anxiety, which I have picked up, and they have been useful. But NOTHING prepared me for how I would feel when it was triggered. None of our treatment has been focused on the PTSD.
You never know what is going on in other people’s minds, and everyone experiences life differently. It doesn’t matter how much we logically know about mental health issues – any one of us can end up in a bad situation. I have been very lucky to have a very strong support structure, that includes good friends, my parents and the people who are treating me.
If you experience the same kind of surprises and need that extra support – the IMAlive family is here for you