On New Years Eve, I stood in my front yard watching fireworks with a friend as 2018 crept into view. I intoxicatedly rambled on about how amazing the previous year had been as he listened on.
'...And I got married to the love of my life! And I got a visa so I don’t have to leave him anymore! And I got medication and therapy for my anxiety and depression and I’ve been feeling really good, honestly. Like better than I have in forever!'
I didn’t think my mental health problems would solved by any means, but I was dealing with 'episodes' a lot less frequently. I wasn’t cured, but I was having fewer 'bad days' and I felt better capable of dealing with them when they occurred. The doctor was right! Who would have thought?
We kept drinking and feeling merry well into the early morning hours, and around 10am on January 1st, 2018, I woke up from a five hour power nap feeling the worst I’ve ever felt after a night of partying.
'What a shit way to start off the New Year,' I thought as I clung to a water bottle at work two hours later. Little did I know that this thought would be immensely foreshadowing.
The first weekend of January, I found out my grandmother was in the hospital. My father told me she was in such immense pain she was in tears. My dad delicately told me that her body seemed to be giving up and the hospital was going to send her home because her insurance wouldn’t pay for her treatment. I was furious on so many levels, but mainly I just wanted to go home and be with my family. With my grandmother’s health weighing heavily on my mind, I wasn’t putting forth my best at work and due to wanting to change careers neither were my sales associates. My business therefore suffered which my area manager was furious about. I tried to explain all that I’d been dealing with, but it fell on deaf ears. After a particularly humiliating phone call with her, I went back on the shop floor and felt my chest tightening. My sales assistant showed up for her shift and I couldn’t even look at her. Some girls at nearby counters called her over and whispered things while looking in my direction and giggling.
'They’re talking about me,' I thought. 'I can’t do this. I can’t do this.' I felt my hands starting to shake.
My sales associate came back over and said, 'Um, can I change your music?'
'Do whatever you want!' I snapped. 'I’ve got to go find Carolyn*!' I hurried away feeling tears welling in my eyes. I found Carolyn in her office and as soon as I closed the door I burst into tears and began hyperventilating. I choked out everything that had been weighing on me even down to the mean girls at work who happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. At the end of my word vomit, Carolyn grabbed my hands and demanded I look into her eyes.
'Just breathe. In and out,' she said to me.
'I’m so sorry! This is so embarrassing!' I said, feeling awful about the display I was putting on in front of a woman I’d only known barely three months.
'You have nothing to apologize for. It’s okay. I don’t have even close to the right answers to console you, but I know what you’re feeling is normal and you will get through this, okay?'
I nodded back in agreement as tears still ran down my cheeks and I found it hard to breathe.
'I want to go home! I need to go home!' I choked out. I wasn’t sure if I meant to the house I shared with my husband, or the state I was born in where my family still resided, but I did know I had to get out of the building I was currently in.
My husband picked me up from work and I broke down recounting everything I was feeling, big and small.
'I thought I was done with this!' I screamed.
'Done with what?'
'Having panic attacks and depression! I was doing so well!'
'Babe, you are doing well. You’re doing brilliantly. What you’re feeling is normal. You’re overwhelmed and that’s okay, you just need to open up more before you get to your breaking point. But don’t you think for one second that you’re a failure or you’ve taken a step back, because you’re human and mental health is not always a smooth ride.'
He was right. Just because I was having a bad 'episode' didn’t mean that the pills weren’t working or the progress I had made since starting to take them was invalid. Being a living, breathing person capable of feeling a full spectrum of emotions meant I wasn’t always going to feel great and life wasn’t always going to go my way. And I needed to learn to deal with that without always falling to pieces. And while that feels like light years away at this point, I’m accepting it as another rung to climb on my mental health ladder.
Less whispering 'I can’t do this' to myself and more whispering 'I can do anything'.