Today I should have been at work but I’m not. I’m not at work because, after ignoring it for months I finally had to admit that I’m really not very well.
I’ve mentioned before that I experience anxiety but there’s been a subtle, almost imperceptible build up to it. I hadn’t acknowledged what was happening until it was inescapable. Following a particularly loud argument with my wife we both realised that my depression and anxiety were operating at levels that needed immediate attention. She scheduled an appointment at the doctors. She called my work and told them I wouldn’t be coming in today.
I spoke to the doctors and am now signed off work with anxiety and depression. I’m taking tablets to level myself out again.
My anxiety is driven by a number of things but the main focus is the death of my mother two years ago. She had MS and despite travelling down the country to see her, then ultimately moving her closer to where we live, I still don’t feel like I did enough for her. I got so distracted with family life and work that I don’t think I made enough effort to go see her. Then one day I got a phonecall telling me to come to the hospital. That was it. She was gone.
In a lot of ways, in my mind she’s still there. Not gone, just waiting for me to stop being too busy and go see her. Another thing on the to-do list that I haven’t gotten to yet.
I don’t know how you’re supposed to get around something like that. How you’re supposed to deal with it in a healthy way. I’ve been to the funeral. I’ve scattered her ashes. But closure, real closure still eludes me. I still have a cupboard of her stuff I haven’t sorted through. It’s been there since the funeral.
If I think properly about it for any length of time it gets really upsetting so I push it to the back of my mind and layer up all sorts of functional, operational stuff on top of it until I can’t see it anymore. That’s really easy to do when you have the distractions of work and three kids demanding hugs and conversations. You can easily fill up a day with the functionality of the office and then carry on doing it blowing noses and pulling arms into pyjama tops when you’re at home.
“Hey, remember that guy that got beheaded on Game of Thrones? I wonder what that would be like? Let’s think about it for an hour.”
“Hey, remember that kid that got sick on Grey’s Anatomy? You’ve got kids, They could get sick. Let’s ponder that until dawn”.
This is why I sleep with a TV on. This is why I can’t even think about trying to go to bed until my body is shutting itself down from exhaustion.
However nightmarish this sounds, the nights are manageable. It’s when it infects the daytime that the wheels really start to come off the bus.
I think I have a kind of ‘high-functioning’ level of anxiety, by which I mean I’m able to ignore it and operate quite successfully if I can just fill my brain with enough things to do that I don’t get chance to actually think. The problem with this is that when you run out of things to do, the thoughts find spaces in which to torment you again.
“You finished that report ages ago. There’s nothing much else to work on right now. I wonder if the kids are safe or if something bad has happened to them? Try calling your wife. If she doesn’t answer first time she’s probably had an accident in the car”.
That’s what I’m keeping at bay. I’ve called my wife in a frantic, terrified frenzy at least twice because she was in an area with poor reception. It’s terrifying for me but it’s also unfair on her.
That exhaustion doesn’t come without a price, especially with the kids. Although I’m usually in good spirits I can get unreasonably grumpy. I overreact to situations that require subtlety, instead handing out verbal admonishments and early bedtimes. I also tend to fall asleep in the early evening, time I could be spending more quality time with the kids.
Today I realised I couldn’t keep going. That I had to seek help or I would be consumed by it. That I’d become a wreck of no use as a husband or as a father. Today, thanks to my wife, I stopped treading water and got some help (and some sleep).
It’s early days but I’m feeling positive for the first time in a long time.
I have to consider how lucky I am. I know some people would not have had the same experience.
- My wife took me seriously and called the doctor and my boss
- The doctor took me seriously and took me off work
- My boss took me seriously and told me to focus on getting better.
These things are important. Without this understanding I might have carried on the way I was and that doesn’t lead to anywhere good.
So, right now I’m medicated for the depression and anxiety. I’m also on mild sleeping tablets. I’m not currently going to work. I’m concentrating on getting better.
I wanted to share this with you because I worry there might be people out there that don’t have a wife, doctor or boss like mine. People that might just keep trying to tread water until they break and sink into that blackness. People that don’t get taken seriously until it’s too late.
I’m not fixed yet but I feel like I’m pointed in the right direction. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going. If you’re reading this and you’re struggling like I was, let me know. Message me here or on Twitter. Even though it feels like it, you’re not alone.
Thanks for reading,
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