To any of my non-bot readers, it will be clear that I’ve been away from writing for a very long while.
Ironically, my last post was made when I thought I was ready to take the blog in a new direction and to add some new partnering into the project in order to hopefully turn over the creative leaf that I’ve been looking for that would finally see my process realized, the harvesting of creative seeds planted, then grown into the creative project I could keep returning to with an abundance of energy and drive.
Regardless of my hopeful thoughts and intentions, I did not anticipate that merely a few weeks later, the health I had regained (physically) throughout the pandemic would be faced with a new challenge as the world re-opened, this time, it appeared for good. The challenge, this time, would be for me alone.
By late May I had exhausted all of my reserves of mental energy, finding for the first time in my life that I had nothing left to draw upon to power me through my obligations of work and volunteering, let alone to focus on the family that had formed around me in the past year, or to maintain a creative spark; I had experienced a severe depressive incident and broken down.
My breakdown (with thanks to the therapy in allowing me to accept this) is at least partially a result of the pandemic’s shutdowns, which stripped away the life familiar to me. My office had closed and my volunteer efforts saw the loss of years of effort dedicated to project wiped away in less than a week after the pandemic was declared. Reminders of the loss were impossible for me to ignore or avoid, so the trauma was revisited upon me with each passing week until my world started reopening. When it did, I found that I had lost my ability to focus, I was in a fog, and I could find no ability to self start. Email appearing in my inbox was not met with my usual click and respond approach, instead, I found that I couldn’t even bring myself click to open those messages that were arriving. The passion I once had for my volunteer efforts was no where to be seen as we began to return to operations more familiar. I reached out to my employer’s employee and family assistance program (EFAP) seeking tools to assist me in finding my spark, and to cope but was met instead with a lecture on staffing basics. Not finding the support I needed, with the support of Bae, I arranged to see my doctor to ask for help.
Unsurprisingly, that request was met with new prescribed medication, but it also came with referrals for mental healthcare, along with time off from work. It took nearly two and a half months for me to be able to summon the energy to give the assistance program another shot; the motivation was found in learning that the health care system would need some four to ten months before I could be seen for treatment. The contact and request for help this time was met quickly with an initial consult that then saw me directed to an appropriate private care provider within 48 hours.
Summarizing quickly what followed (not just for brevity but in respect for my current limitations), it is believed that I am showing the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This potential diagnosis chafes at me as I don’t believe my pandemic experiences equate in the slightest to what those I know who have PTSD have experienced. I’m told that I’m resilient, that the trauma experienced during the pandemic likely depleted the last of my resiliency and the symptoms then set in. I’m told that I’d been through trauma earlier in childhood and despite my resilience and well honed coping techniques, it’s effects didn’t go away but were instead buried under all the other adulthood trauma I’d pushed down a proverbial hole on top of it. The childhood issues remained there, and for those in my age group (mid to late forties), this is when it starts to show its unwelcome face again.
Depression is something I thought I had experienced only on limited occasions in my life, however therapy is peeling away at the layers of my beliefs to expose truths and dispel illusions and misconceptions; depression has likely been with me throughout my life, unchecked by anything but my own will. Anxiety, more specifically panic attacks, were not something that I recognized or had understanding of prior to my blip; I assure you I am now very much aware of the challenges of anxiety and have discovered the awakening of empathy within me, allowing me to perceive and understanding others at a deeper and more nuanced level than before.
If the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic is what helped me to become more physically healthy, then the re-opening of the world, my world, I hope will bring with it a return to greater mental health, with the reconstitution of my resiliency, and the development of the new skills necessary to maintain it.
I promised myself that having gone through this breakdown and embarked on the journey to learn and recover from it, that I would I find the good in the experience and become an advocate for mental health. I hope this blog qualifies as my first step in starting to fulfill that promise; it will not be the last.