If I am remembering correctly the first real dealing with mental illness in my immediate family is my aunt. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The next was with myself when I started experiencing panic attacks, then an attempted suicide.
So dear reader mental illness can attack any person, regardless of race, nationality, financial status, gender, and age.
“No amount of me trying to explain myself was doing any good. I didn’t even know what was going on inside of me, so how could I have explained it to them?” ― Sierra D. Waters, Debbie.
Back in the early nineties I was working in a fast food chain as a morning manager. I was going through a rough time. I didn’t know what was happening within me at that time, but a sudden rush of complete panic would wash over me. It was like a was staring at the meanest guard dog and frozen in my tracks.
There was a walk -in clinic just around the corner from where I lived and went to see a doctor. I explained to him how I was feeling and he gave me a prescription for Prozac. They seemed to work but they left me feeling dazed all the time.
I quit the job and moved back into the Kitchener area into a bachelor apartment. A new grocery food chain had opened just down the block. Since I was having trouble coping in crowds I decided to have a friend take me there around midnight. I was doing fine with the shopping and was nearing finishing up. Then a horrible panic attack hit me, the worse I have had to that time. The “fight or flight” kicked in, I turned leaving the cart full of groceries and ran back to my apartment.
For those who have never suffered a panic attack would find it hard to understand. I am not sure I even have the words to describe it fully. They seem to come from out of nowhere, no rhyme or reason, they just hit you like a medicine ball taking the wind out of your body. They leave you frozen on the spot with nerves jumping at every movement around you.
I have learned over the years on how to handle a panic attack should they hit while I am out doing shopping. I just stop wherever I am at, start concentrating on my breathing with deep breaths then exhale. I do this until I feel calm again. I do not stop to consider what others may be thinking about what I am doing.
Panic attacks though not seen, except from a person’s reactions, are so very real. They bring on a sense of danger, horror, even feeling like you might die of a heart attack.
So dear reader if you or someone you know suffers with Panic Disorder you have my sympathies! For those who do not suffer, but, know someone who does, please be patient with them, try using calming words to help them focus and bring themselves back to calm.
Several days ago I had an idea which I thought might be interesting. The idea; flip the scenario of the interview. The questions would not be posed by me, but, it would be from someone else, the questions would be for me.
So, I needed to find someone to ask if they would help with this project. The person I turned to was Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home. I contacted her about a week ago to which she agree to help. If you have never visited her blog put it on your things to do list.
So below is the interview. I may revisit the questions to add to it more insight. I have tried to answer the questions with honesty and truthfully.
At this moment I want to say, “Thank youAshleyfor Your Help”! I truly appreciate this!
Were there things that your blog has allowed you to get out that weren’t able to express before?
There were many things that I could not express before. Some would be looked upon as weakness, short comings, others would be considered non Biblical. Things about gender, sexuality, race.
Did you ever feel it was necessary to mask what was going on inside you? If so, how did you do that?
Yes, I did wear a mask. The first that held that mask on was a lack of trust. I held many things to myself, not even telling my wives, family, because I learned that familiarity is dangerous. It usually ends up with them turning on you by breaking trust.
The next thing that I believe that held the mask on was ignorance. Believing what you have been told all of your life, things concerning the Faith. It wasn’t until I finally started my long journey of healing of my mental health that I started to question in earnest what I truly believed. I came to the conclusion that there were many things I felt was wrong, some that really did not have a sure foundation in the Scriptures.
Has there been any form of creative art or expression other than writing that’s been significant for you? What role did that play if your life?
My whole life has been about the music, it still is. I am thankful that I have a small home organ within my home. It had a fantastic price attached to it, “FREE”. I couldn’t refuse it. When I am totally at whit’s end when possible I sit and will play old hymns and other songs. It usually quiets my mind. There are other times, especially when I need a bit of inspiration, I turn to my iTunes music. One artist is foremost is Michael Bublè, his music is similar to that of Frank Sinatra.
What role has religion played in the course your transition into adulthood and beyond?
I am going to be honest and frank, I have held onto my faith in God, but, I have let go many other things. As I said this journey of healing has been intense. It has caused me to look inward, question everything, search all things, to become honest of who I truly was as a human being. Notice I did not say “person”, I could be any person, but who am I as a human.
Has your sense of who you are and how you relate to the world changed over time?
The resounding answer is, yes I have changed in relation of discovering who I really am. I couldn’t see it while I was in the midst of it, but, looking back, even just over two years, I can see change. I really do not have fear about how people see me. Yes, I hope they see the real me. Yet, I can understand that they may have, like me, trust issues. That is where true acceptance comes into place. I hope people would respect where I am in my walk of healing, I also hope I can respect others on their walk of healing in obtaining great mental health.
How did mental illness enter your life, and what are some of the ways it affects you?
I look back at my life, especially my teenage years through my early adult years and I can see signs of mental illness already showing itself. My sudden outrage for even the littlest thing, comment, etc., Also, I can recognize the times of mania, and deep depression that inserted itself during those years.
It wasn’t until around 1990 when I started experiencing panic attacks. One time while grocery shopping in an almost empty store I suffered with a severe panic attack. I left the cart in the aisle and ran back to my bachelor apartment a block away. It wasn’t long after that when I attempted my first suicide.
At times it has left me mentally crippled, all my interests seemed to melt away. On the mania times it was almost nonstop activity.
There were many mornings where I would wake up with no memory of the night before. No recollection of conversations, what I ate, what I did like watching television. My best friend would find me passed out in the oddest places, once under my sewing machine. It left him terrified every time he would come into my house in the morning.
What have been some of the most difficult times or circumstances you’ve dealt with in terms of your mental health?
The hardest time of dealing with my mental health condition was the very first time, the time when I woke up in the mental health ward after the attempted suicide.
I basically stayed to myself, did not interact with others who were also dealing with mental health issues. My memory of it is vague, basically going to the smoking room. There was the first day that they decided that we should watch the movie “Groundhog Day”. I remember, why this, what does it have to do with me getting out of here. Honestly, I still have no answer for that movie.
Has family played a major role for you? Have there been certain family events that were particularly significant in your life?
Family meant something for me, I should clarify, my maternal family. I was very close to my grandfather and grandmother. I felt more at home there then I did at my parent’s home. I felt accepted there, yet I am glad they were not around in my worst days. I sometimes wonder how they would have reacted.
I only have one blood relative that I am close to, being my maternal aunt. She has always been a part of my life, babysitting, singing, just there. After she goes my connection to that part of family will be gone.
I am now a grandfather of three, my daughter, and those children are now my world. They love talking with me when they are here, they have their heads in the right place. The oldest, my granddaughter, just turned thirteen.
Were there things from your childhood, either positive or negative, that have really stuck with you over time?
There are two things that have stuck with me over time. How I deal with others, growing up in a multi-cultural area it wasn’t a big thing to have friends, acquaintances, from other cultures, etc, Maybe it was because of my mother and grandmother. I never heard an unkind word, slur, put down, to come from their lips. I could take any of my friend’s home or to my grandmother’s knowing they would be accepted without question.
The other would be anger. I decided as a kid that I did not want that in my life. My dad would explode at the slightest slight. It was to the point that I would make excuses when he would ask if I wanted to play a game of Chess. I always said no, I knew if he lost, it just might mean an eruption of anger. If I am around someone who shows anger of that sort I find myself looking for the exit. I can be angry at something, but never to the point where it is physical or emotionally.
Are there life choices you’ve made that you feel grateful for or regret now?
There are probably many things I regret now, only because hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Dropping out of high school, two divorces, not always being there for my daughter while she was growing up. Those are probably the ones that come to the top of my thoughts.
The biggest thing that I can be truly grateful is that I can to the acknowledgment that I needed help, that I sought help, and that I continue to work to achieve great mental health.
The other is that I have learned how a true friend acts. I write about my best friend, twenty plus years. He has been there through my worst. Days where I lashed out at him, times when I would threaten to move away from him. He has been in the room with my family doctor, Psychiatrist, and all other specialists. He also manages my medications, which came about during one of my inpatient times. While at home I was double dosing my Oxycontin medication. So there was an agreement between myself, my doctors, and at that time my Pharmacist, that was back in 2004. He still goes with me to my appointments, sometimes is because my mobility is not at its best, mostly because my short term memory is spotty.
P.S. – That is the interview. Let me say this, I am not done with my journey towards great mental health. There are issues that I am still struggling with, issues that at this time cannot disclose.
If you read this, if you are also on your journey towards great mental health, let me give you a word of encouragement.
You are not alone, there are others on a similar journey with issues all of their own. There will be others after you. Please help those who are coming up with words of encouragement, make them feel at home that they have a safe place.
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Today has been a different day for me. I woke up being jittery, no reason why, just so jittery. So, I took an Ativan to calm my nerves. It wasn’t a panic attack for I can recognize them. It was just plain and simple the jitters.
I realize there are many that probably are having the same feelings. Feelings of the unknown is very unsettling. My best friend went to pick up a couple of things in the grocery department, he said it was eerie because some of the shelves in two different stores were empty.
I have come across some very weird conspiracy theories, too many are so strange it automatically should be deleted from the web. Some are trying to scam people by frightening people.
I am not panicking over this covid-19, I am taking all the logical precautions. I have not been in the company of anyone who has tested positive. I do not go out very that often, my mobility is limited, I haven’t left my home in at least two weeks.
Being logical, like I use to handle all other situations, is the best way for me to handle and manage this crisis.
So, I follow the science in this pandemic. Listen to only the best sources. I have been encouraged when I hear Prime Minister Trudeau go before the microphone and press as he gives updates daily.
I have all the assurance that I will survive this for I have survived other great crisis’!
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