Let’s talk mental health

Last Friday I became aware of how positive my life looks like to the outside when I met up with an intern architect that I’m mentoring.

She looked up my profile and saw that I was licensed, had lots of work, wrote poetry and fiction, and was willing to mentor interns through the licensing process.

And that’s true to an extent, now.

But 15 months ago I was in crisis. I sat in my yearly office review, unable to stop the tears and sobbing even though it was relatively minor items that I had to improve. My attitude had changed. They saw it, I knew it, and I couldn’t keep going the way I had.It had been months, and I couldn’t shake it.

I booked an appointment with my family doctor. Despite writing a thesis on mental health architecture I didn’t know where to start other than with her.

I’m so grateful that my doctor takes a holistic approach. She gave me a referral for several different options. She also gave me a requisition for bloodwork because it could be physical. She asked me pointed questions about my life and told me I had anxiety. I was sad yes, but I didn’t realize how close anxiety and depression are. I also didn’t realize until she asked those questions that I was prone to anxiety my whole life. Sure, I was a worrier, that’s been my nature. I mean I was born on a Wednesday! But my coping mechanisms were failing me and I had felt like this for months instead of days.

I booked an appointment. It would be after my planned 3 week international family vacation, but I would go.

The vacation did wonders for me, so did eliminating some medication that was affecting my hormones. If I had to choose between the physical pain I was experiencing and emotional pain, I would choose the physical. What does that say about the stigma around mental health?

My bloodwork didn’t turn up anything and I went to my first mindfulness CBT program run by a professional psychologist anyway. Months of not being able to shake off my anxieties left me with lots of questions and though I felt better, I wanted better coping skills.

Best decision I ever made.

The first couple of sessions I was reserved, but then, a breakthrough. I cried release and I looked forward to coming back for more. My therapist is the right fit for me.

I am learning to deal with so much, and trying to figure out why I react the way I do. And because I’m easily someone who keeps it all in my head, having the person there to talk to, to give me a way to ground myself, and give me a place to say things out loud safely, was exactly what I needed.

We talked about anything. The fact that my dad died 2 years before and how grief hits. The fact that I’m an over achiever and emotionally take on other people’s problems when I don’t need to. My issues with asking for help.

So I’m getting better and have made breakthroughs, and I am in a better head space.

Now granted, I am not doing perfectly. I, being the planner that I am, have a list of things I need to work on steadily, but I have better tools. And someone to guide me through. And I’m still dealing with the anxiety of putting myself out there. Just thinking about what this might say about my professionalism has me in knots. But I’m trusting that someone out there needs to hear this.

I may another breakdown one day, but now I’m in a better place to recover from it.

So what the point of my story? I have a few.

First, honesty in the face of our hyped up social media world. We don’t see the pain behind our masks unless we are brave enough to share our humanity.

Second, I could afford therapy because I have benefits and some savings. If I didn’t? I might still be in that dark place, not getting help because I wasn’t ideating and not emergent, not getting help because I would be on a long waiting list to get help from the programs that offer it to people in need.

Third, if I need meds and I was without my benefits? I might not be able to afford them.

Fourth, see your doctor. Get your bloodwork tested. Low iron levels can do more than give you anemia. Same thing with your potassium levels.

Finally, ask for help. I did and I’m glad for my family’s sake. I was a mess then. And I’m not always great now, but at least I have the resources to help me. I couldn’t do it alone. And I shouldn’t have to.

Neither should you.

So, what’s your story?