The Faces of Mental Illness – 2/23/2014

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For all purposes here, I am The Llama. If you have ever read anything about The Llama on Terminally Intelligent, that is me. I have been a silent sufferer of mental illness for a long time. I suffer from depression, anxiety, and mild panic attacks.

Since the birth of our child, my wife has suffered from depression and anxiety. As my symptoms began to manifest I pushed them aside and tried to hide them so that I could, in my thoughts, be strong, happy, and supportive for her. Obviously that was not healthy for me but I thought it necessary.
Seven years ago I suddenly had a bad meltdown and saw my doctor about my symptoms. I have never been suicidal or in any way close to self-harm but that seemed to be mostly what he was concerned with. From what I told him, he put me on Paxil. That was a terrible experience. While on it I cheated on my wife, lost my job, and then split from my wife for a woman who was an incredible whore and toxic for me. Now I’m not blaming the pills for my problems, but I am saying that it was the wrong medication for me and I behaved very out of character while on it. I then did exactly what I shouldn’t have done and weaned myself off of the Paxil. It was all in the spirit of trying to fix my relationship with my wife and get my life back together. Thankfully, I was lucky and didn’t cause myself any harm and did get my family back.
Since then things have not only gone back to normal, but I have fallen more in love with the woman I married than I thought was possible. Problem is that I also went back to pretending to be a smiling rock for my wife. While it is helpful to her, again, it’s bad for me. She saw all of the symptoms but didn’t want to say anything because she knew that it could feel like I was being attacked.

I am constantly an anxious mess. I spend most of my day worrying that a text I received from a friend might mean that they didn’t like what I had said to them, thinking about what I may have messed up at work the previous day, or thinking about what I’m going to say in an important conversation that I may have coming up. Over and over again. In fact I thought and worried about typing this message for about two straight days before finally starting it. Then the depression that causes me to cry for no reason. For example, the other day the tears started flowing while mixing pancake batter with Imagine Dragons playing on vinyl. Can’t imagine any nostalgia or memory that would cause it. Then the panic attacks join in. They are very mild and might not even be panic attacks but that’s what they seem like. No breath, heart racing, and can’t think about anything but trying to stop it. It might be just heart palpitations caused by the anxiety but those are almost the same thing.

Next, I don’t like myself very much, physically or emotionally. I’m so [afraid of] anyone finding out that I put on an air of arrogance. Sometimes it gets so bad that people really view me as arrogant, which does not help the anxiety. Or sometimes it turns into real arrogance and suddenly I am either having problems at work or, in one case, being fired. Finally, there is my crippling fear of death. Since I was a child I have been afraid of the fact that we are all headed toward an inevitable end. To this day I still break down about once every month or so because of it.

The other day I broke and had one of my worst days in a long time. I decided that I had to sit down and confess to my wife, not to mention myself, how I really feel on a normal day. I was scared out of my mind that she would break down in tears because she couldn’t rely on me to be strong anymore or that she would be pissed that I have basically been lying to her. In the end, she was proud of me for coming forward finally since she had a feeling I was not doing so well as I seemed. Also giving her something to focus on helping and fixing helps her feel a bit better.
We have come up with a plan to begin to fix each other. Pick the right doctors for us, treatment, love, and communication. It feels so much better to be able to talk with her about it and just having her around, talking or not, really helps to quiet the anxiety a bit.
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