The Road To Mental Wellness
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The Road to Mental Wellness

Monday, 18 February 2019

Signs Of Strength When You're Not Mentally Well

Signs of Strength When You're Not Mentally Well.

When I started my wellness journey it was met with fear and uncertainty, I was unsure for my future. Nonetheless, I took a deep breath and prepared myself for battle. Leading up to this wellness journey
I was barely clinging to the everyday routine of my life. Like a broken branch being violently tossed about in a windstorm, so too was everything I ever knew in life. I was caught in the turbulence of a force that I had not yet experienced. I've had my moments being pretty ill in the past, but this time it just felt different. 

A new demon had rolled into town threatening to uproot the mental illness that had already staked its claim on my head space. This new sickness moving to town wasn't completely foreign to me, I had wrestled with him in the past. When this disorder caught up with me this time however, I grossly underestimated its strength, as a result it slowly overpowered and incapacitated me. This overwhelming force is the mental disorder known as (PTSD) post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prior to this adversary I was at odds with my resident mental illness, (GAD) generalized anxiety disorder. Powerful in its own right, it was a trickster I knew far too well to be defeated by it on its own. I was battling the angst it produced and winning the vast majority of the days battles against it.

It came at a cost however, my fight or flight response was always engaged and causing a significant amount of mental fatigue, but I knew this and compensated for it; going to bed earlier was just one of the ways I coped. I was still king of the mental health castle. 

That all changed when the PTSD and the GAD started a turf war vying for absolute supremacy over my mental health. I could slowly feel the happy being withered away, caught in their cross fire.
Despite my health being held at the mercy of the two, I still went to work, still forced a smile on my face and tried to be the positive helpful John I had always been. I diligently fulfilled my personal obligations and went through great lengths to ensure my kids were none the wiser. Something had to give though, socially my life took on serious damage as I increasingly sought refuge behind the safety of my own four walls and as the battle within intensified, the need to withdraw became more and more frequent. 

At some point the two disorders decided to call a truce, good news right? Wrong! They figured they could have ultimate control over not only my mind, they also realized that they would be stronger together, and they formed an alliance and have now attempted to take my soul and body as well. I was up against two very, very clever adversaries, and up to this very day they have wreaked havoc with my health, not only mentally but also physically. 

Now allies at war with me, I felt powerless to combat the two, I felt weak, lonely, and defenceless. They were the perfect storm, intense and always in my head. The PTSD produced so much fear that I made retreating from public my second occupation. I constantly lived in fear of the possibility of seeing death or having to render aid to someone in an emergency. I was reactive to every little noise and the outside world had become way to loud and intolerable. The GAD amplified the fears I had and still have around death, and being the ever constant storyteller, it will construct scenarios of people dying in front of me in any number of ways. See, the perfect partners. Their combined powers were too overwhelming and I eventually conceded to their power and became unable to face my job, the world around me, or enjoy the company of my loved ones. I felt like the weakest most useless person on earth, and I felt I had little choice but to surrender to my woes. With a feeling of shame and experiencing a numbing and persistent sadness, I gave up, retreated. Exhausted, I stayed at home, I was defeated, too weak to fight on; or was I?

Taking leave from work and faced with a lot of time on my hands I found that being absent from the constant stimulus of my occupation and the outside world, allowed me to spend a lot of time reflecting on the events in my life and all the effort I had put in to trying to live a "normal" existence. Getting up every day, dragging myself through the everyday trials of life, work, kids, bills, dealing with conflict etc. All at the same time fighting not one but two mental illnesses and their tendencies to take the wheel and drive through whatever they wanted, like two teens without a license, taking me along for their destructive ride. Yet despite all this, I was raising my kids and doing a pretty good job. Not being able to work and contribute, although very tough, it made me realize that I had a tremendous support system.

Now, when I replay my story in my mind I have rightfully concluded that I wasn't weak at all, that taking the time off was not a shameful act. I was merely aware enough to understand that my illness made me to sick to work, and perhaps more importantly it wasn't because I was weak that I conceded to the PTSD and GAD, it was just out of pure exhaustion, battle fatigue if you will, physically and mentally spent. I needed and still need time to get better.

I believe that if one exceeds their tolerances in life, as I had for many, many years one naturally, but incorrectly feels weak; simply because they are living up to someone else's standards. I think we would thrive if we acknowledge that we are all costume made and have our own threshold, once exceeded we simply tire to the point that our body and mind say "enough"! Also, when we go against our own grain, neglect our true passions we then start to become ill and end up slugging our way through it because of our socially expected obligations. 

If this story sounds similar to your own, then may I suggest that you are not weak and definitely not alone. You're also far from useless, you are a pillar of strength, an example of one who is strong; just drained and your tank is on E. Yet, despite this you keep going. I have had the honour of hearing many people's life stories and I have yet to find one example of weakness, not one.  It's OK to take time to re-learn your tolerances and as with any other illness, mental disorders come with their own challenges that need accommodation on your part, it's up to you to find the help you need and discover what those tolerances are.

To learn more about your limits click here: Mental illness and knowing your limits

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"We the mentally ill don't necessarily have disabilities, we have tolerances, we simply need to learn how to work within them."
(John Arenburg).