As I’m typing my first few words, not sure if this will be hard or easy to write- so bare with me.
A year ago, I decided to do something. Something for me. Something personal. Impactful. Something smart, healthy, and very, very much needed. A year ago, I decided it was time to take control of my life again and take the control back from the anxiety monster I gave it to. A year ago, I took my first dose of anxiety medication, and prepared for a year of change.
Just like 20% of Canadians, I have dealt with my fair share of anxiety and depression. Much of it started when I moved to London, but looking back now, it started a little before then too. The best example I have was my graduation day. I know my very first post on my blog described this amazing, wonderful, memory filled day, and to some extent it was just that - an amazing day; however, the getting there was another story. For some reason I woke up extremely nervous that morning - and what was I to be nervous for? I had already done all the exams and hard work, this was merely a celebration of that accomplishment.
I was nervous to get up on that stage. To sit in a room where I felt like I had no escape for the 2-hour ceremony. I was nervous I would get really, really hot and pass out since it was June, and I was wearing a heavy graduation gown. I remember feeling sick to my stomach before we left that day and being very, very short with people (sorry mom). Looking back- this is the very first time I really remember letting anxiety take over my life.
As the months went by, and I made my move to London, I had a lot of excitement. I went through a nice honeymoon phase, where life was peachy, full of rainbows, and unicorns were dancing down oxford street with me. But as all good things come to an end, so did this high.
Around September I was hit with my first major obstacle. My company announced that my role was changing and that they were going to find me a new post. They asked me to be patient and wait a little while before freaking out. So I did…. for maybe 4 days, and then I slowly started to freak out. I would get nervous about meetings, I would talk quickly on the phone, or I would just avoid things all together, including letting myself have fun.
Mid-September hit and this is when the worst of it all seemed to happen. I had a week where I basically only went to work one day of that entire week because I felt so sick all the time. I only threw up once, but my body would just not keep food in me, nor would it take in any of the nutrition. All I could do everyday was sleep and cry. It made me homesick, frustrated, nauseous and I felt like I had hit a new low- whatever is under rock bottom, minus another 100 feet is where I felt like I was lying.
The final straw was when I noticed I felt smaller, and my clothes fit much differently. I weighed myself just before moving to the UK, and when I weighed myself that during the week of hell, I noticed I lost about 35 pounds. How does one lose 35 pounds in 2.5 months without trying and eating all the crap that I eat!!!! I went to the doctors in the UK that week, where they did blood work for me – twice. They thought maybe it was a celiac allergy and this is why my body won’t keep food in, or maybe I had IBS or some other stomach bug. Not once did they mention this could be a mental thing.
While going to the doctor in the UK, I was emailing my doctor back home. She was the one who finally mentioned that I could be dealing with anxiety, and that given all the changes I went through in the past few months, she wouldn’t be surprised.
I found some resources in the UK to help me until Christmas, which would be the next time I would be in Canada and be able to go see my doctor. I found a chat service who emails you when you need to talk. I was talking to a few friends back home who I knew had gone through similar things before. My one friend that helped me the most came to me by surprise.
The sad, sad day in history when Trump won the election, it was around 2am Canadian time, 7am London time. My friend messaged me on Facebook to vent as he knew I was one of the only ones awake at the time (thanks to time changes) so we chatted and ranted in disbelief. A few days later, it was 2am UK time and about 9pm Canadian time. I was up in the middle of the night and having a bad little meltdown. I saw that he was online and so I messaged him saying that this is what I’ve been dealing with, and I just needed someone to talk to me about ANYTHING to get my mind off of what it was thinking about. To my surprise, he knew exactly what I needed because he had been through it before too. So from that week on, we’ve been each others 911 calls, and thanks to time changes this worked well for us! I was in the UK, so when I was supposed to be asleep but couldn’t sleep, I knew he was up. Then when I moved back to Canada, he moved to Twain so his anxiety came around while mine settled down, but thanks again to time changes, I was awake when he needed me.
When I came home for Christmas, I went to my doctor and to a psychiatrist. I went to a psychiatrist not for a diagnosis - because believe me I knew what was wrong with me by this point - but I went to talk, to make sure what I was going through was as textbook normal as could be, and to learn any other coping mechanisms that I hadn’t already found myself. After our meeting, I knew that I had done all I could, and it was time to go a step further and reach out for more help- time for a doctor.
So I went to my doctor and told her the full story again, her and I agreed to go on an anti-depressant which is the same drug they use for anxiety. She told me it could take a few different tries with a few different kinds of anti-depressants, as not all work the same or react the same in everyone. She told me that it might cause me to feel very down for a few days- which it did.
When I got back to London in the new year- I had three days where all I could do was lie in bed, get out of bed at 2pm, eat, shower, and go back to bed. Even walking to the grocery store seemed impossible. My doctor told me that after a few days though, I will feel great, and life will feel “normal” again, which was true. On the 4th day, one of my best friends came to London to stay with me while he toured around. He was just what I needed. He got me up, got me out, and showed me why I moved here in the first place.
After that day life has felt normal. Yes, I still have some days where life seems like a lot, or I let things affect me more than someone else would, but compared to where I was a year ago today, the sun is much brighter.
I knew I would want to write about this situation eventually, and I’m glad I did. I know many people who have gone through it, and I’m sure many people I know will eventually go through it. I want people to know that doing the smallest things can make the world of difference to someone going through anxiety or depression. Just by saying “I’m here for you” or answering that message when someone says “I need a distraction”. I’m thankful for those who have helped me, and those who continue to.
What I’m learning now, through this transition of going from student life to young professional life is that there needs to be more a support system for people who suffer from any type of mental illness in the work place. During university I advocated a lot for better, and more mental health support on campus. Luckily, right now I work somewhere that has a few tools in place; however, there is still so much work to be done. Most people don’t come forward when they need help for the fear of being judged. Me personally, I don’t talk about everything I just wrote about with my boss, because I don’t want her to think I’m incapable, or unable to do something because of my anxiety. I’ve never let it get in the way before, but sometimes when I’m having a bad day, I want to tell her the real reason why, but I don’t because I don’t want her to think differently of me. HOW SAD IS THAT!
What I can’t stand is people who say that they support people who have mental health issues, but then still say they would judge someone and someone’s work differently if they came forward with it in the work place. I wish people would recognize that when you hire someone, you hire all of them- the good and the bad, and all the “baggage”. You are hiring a person, not a robot.
I’m proud of how far I’ve come, and where I am headed. I will continue to support my friends who I know right now are going through some hard stuff, and will be there for anyone else who will go through this.
PS: this was easier to write than I thought, but pushing this “publish” button will be the true beast!