Am I human yet?

Sometimes I don’t feel human.

I assess my life and realise it’s a some total of experiences and memories and I get stuck. I realise to some extent everybody is made up of where they’ve been, lessons they’ve learnt, what they’ve faced. It shapes us as people. But sometimes I feel like I’m not a person, I’m a robot, who I am, what I do, it’s dictated by who I once was and who I have been. It feels like I’m on autopilot and it leaves me asking questions like why did I do that? Why are these memories still there? Why does no one know this about me? When will I just be normal?

For the past couple of weeks this has been my state. All because of one thing, one word I said. One counselling session I had and within that just one answer I gave out of many. The word I gave as my answer, a one word answer has left me experiencing flashbacks everyday. Sometimes on the days I’m not distracted, it’s left me experiencing them all day, unable to do anything much more than relive my memories.

I hate the word flashbacks.

It brings to mind Hollywood scenes of people lost in there thoughts then snapping back to reality with people around them looking confused. Whenever I think of the word my mind goes to the newer Charlie and the chocolate factory film. Where Willy Wonka flashes back to his childhood in a dramatic manner and makes people question his sanity. The reality is much different.

I always have the same one to begin with. When it happens I go onto autopilot, it doesn’t stop me doing the things I need to do. I can hold a conversation, work, go about my daily life without anybody noticing. While I’m doing that I’m also lost in my memories. I can remember everything. I can remember the conversation, how everything looked, how I felt, what I was wearing, what the 2 other people involved were wearing. I can remember how the front door looked, how the sun was out, how everyone was sat. It’s all consuming and no matter what I look like I’m doing or thinking, I’m not thinking about anything but what my brain has reminded me of.

I say I always have the same one to begin with, sometimes it’s others but when it’s this one I know I’m in trouble and it’s this one that I’ve had everyday recently.

Once that ones over it goes to another, then another, sometimes it’s stays in the same place, I relive every moment of being in that place. Sometimes it’s stays there for a while and then moves on, suddenly I’m back in the back of an ambulance, I’m back on my bathroom floor, I’m back in hospital.

Sometimes after a few minutes I’ll snap out of it and feel I’ve got away lightly, sometimes it will be hours later and I feel unable to carry on and I beg with myself to forget about it all, to move on, to be normal.

Sometimes, like right now, I debate running away, hopefully thinking if I started a new life somewhere everything would be better, I’d forget everything that’s ever happened and start becoming a person.

Sometimes, like right now, it becomes to painful and I start to hope that I have an overactive imagination. That non of these things really happened and that I’ve made them up without knowing. But as hard as I wish that I know it’s not true.

With the flashbacks come a desperation to tell somebody every single part of my existence. Every story I have to tell and hope that makes them go away, but I know I can never do that.

Sometimes I write it all down, but I’ve learnt that that only makes it more vivid.

Like an unwelcome hotel guest they take up a room in my brain and when they come I’m reminded how much I hate them and I’m left just waiting for them to check out.

They are the part of my life I don’t have a plan for, I don’t have a coping mechanism. They come and go as the please and I am left helpless until they leave.

What it feels like to be signed off work for mental health reasons.

I have been declared unfit for work due to my mental health numerous times. Sometimes I would be signed off, go back to work and be signed off again after one shift. That was in my last job, a job I enjoyed but didn’t really care about. It meant nothing to me to miss a few weeks or months and then go back. Around 18 months ago, after just graduating university and after a crazy (quite literally) year I landed a new job. A job that I cared and still care about. In those 18 months I have phoned in sick twice, only one of those times was mental health related and it was just after my dad passed away so I kind of let myself off for that, and, even then it was only a couple of days, not long enough that I could no longer self certify.

A few months ago, maybe more than that my mood took a turn for the unstable, I was carrying on as normal and keeping myself on track enough to still be working. Then I wasn’t. In mental health world theres a fine line between struggling and in control and struggling and no longer in control. Right now, I find myself in the latter part. I may be in control of my actions but I am completely out of control on an emotional stability level. It started to effect me at work and a few weeks later I found myself declared unfit. It hit me hard, I didn’t ever expect to be back in that place again. Lets talk about the issues and the positives that come with being signed off shall we?

So, before I get into the issues, here are the positives that I can think off.

  • Being signed off gives me more faith that my doctors know my illness. They know when its time to say stop and time to say go. My doctor advised I be signed off a few weeks before I was, he left it with me and I was adament I wouldn’t do it, but on my next visit and the worsening of my symptoms he took the option out of my hands. Looking at the situation that was the right call, and that helps me trust the system a little more.
  • Being signed off takes some of the pressure out of day to day life. For now I don’t need to think about going to work and functioning on that level. I have time to focus on keeping myself safe and that can be full time job in itself.
  • I have the time to work out an updated plan for keeping myself well. The last one I did was a couple of years ago and included things such as ‘go out of the house at least once a day’ and ‘make sure you at least shower.’ Those things are no longer an issue for me now I can swap them out for skills that help me in my higher functioning lifestyle. In looking at those plans I can also appreciate how far I’ve come, and praise myself for it. Like, at one point I was that unwell I couldn’t function without hospital stays and friends monitoring me and actually one hard time in 18 months is fucking good going. Recovery is never a straight line.

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Now lets talk about the challenges, and to do that lets start at the beginning of the being signed off process.

Firstly is the visit to the doctors, I don’t have a massive issue with this, I’ve always trusted my doctor, more than mental health professionals in some cases, but it can be daunting for some people to go to there GP and tell them there mental health issues.

The next thing is one which I struggle with, the dreaded phone call to work. Like hey, I know I’m meant to be on shift tomorrow, I know I’m screwing you over massively and someones going to have to work extra hours but I can’t come in tomorrow, or for the next 3 weeks. I had so much anxiety over doing it, and it makes me feel like the biggest dick on the planet, but truth is it’s better that I do that than come in in the non functioning state I’ve found myself in ( I should also add that if you have a good employer there shouldn’t be 20 questions or any guilt led by them, luckily for me I am in that position). Currently Ive been signed off for a week longer than expected with a note on my sick note saying I need to be reassessed at the end of the two weeks. That scares me even more, because once again in 2 weeks time I may have to ring in again saying I’m not going to be back in at the last minute, leaving me with the, you’ve just screwed everyone over once again feeling.

Then theres the ‘I feel emotionally naked’ feeling, I am open about my mental health but theres something really degrading to me (and I’ll admit its my issue) to hand in a sick note that discloses my biggest secret, the thing I try hardest to hide.

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An issue I faced today was the wording of my sick note, which just says ‘depression’ when I actually want to explain. Yes depression is an issue for me, but right now its instability which means depression, hypermania, impulsivity, anxiety, inability to function in relationships, flashbacks, addiction,dissasociation and so much more. My doctor always puts the least possible on my sick notes because of confidentiality but sometimes it feels more of a hinderance than a help.

Then theres the actual time off. 

How do I explain to the people around me that Im not working for the next couple of weeks? To my mum (who I now live with) I’ve gone down the line of stress. Theres a lot the older generation don’t understand about mental health, my mum falls into that category, which I don’t blame her for at all. She actually tries really hard to understand and support me but I can see the panic and confusion when she tries to talk about it, I think thats a problem with the education in mental health rather than her, but still its there. So for now I’ve gone with stress, then theres the rest of the family, they understand a lot more, but do I change my story to them and risk exposing myself to my mum?

What am I meant to do with my time?

Theres something about being crazy that turns you into a child, like have a spent the last week doing jigsaws and puzzle books just to keep myself distracted? Yes. Have I being spending 18 hours in bed? Yes. Have I been painting and colouring? Yes. There is another panic, what if when I get back to work someone asks me what I’ve been doing? When I answer it won’t sound like I’ve been ill, it will sound like I’ve had a bit of a jolly, but actually I’ve being doing those things to distract myself from my own thoughts and pain.

I 100% don’t want people to know that I’ve spent the first week of my time off reliving every moment of my last 2 weeks at work questioning every decision I’ve made whilst at work. Like have I fucked everything up. When I said that, was that me or my mental illness. When I snapped at that co-worker, was it justified or was that my illness. Then theres the bits I don’t need to overthink, I know I fucked up because of my mental health and I feel guilty 97.34% of the time.

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Being off work means any small amount of motivation I had to keep it together has gone. Like, do I want to start drinking as soon as I wake up? fuck it theres nothing to stop me now, do I want to stay in bed all day? Yes and now theres nothing to make me get up… I was going to make more examples but I’ve reconsidered in case they disclose to much, sorry about that I guess. Truth is in the job I work, it would be selfish of me to carry on going in, barely aware of reality just to keep myself going.

And lastly, you’ll be glad to hear, heres my massive concern, what will people do when I get back? Will everyone treat me like normal and pretend I was never off? I hope so. Will people ask me if I’m Ok? please no, because lets be real, I’ll be better, I’ll be functioning and I’ll be back to doing my job, hopefully well. Will I be OK? probably not, just better.  Worst off all, will people question my ability to do my job? Will I be seen as less? Will my time off be judged? With everything I’m hoping the answer is no. But thats part of the issue with mental illness isn’t it? If I was signed off sick because of a stomach bug, or the flu, would I have the same issues, the same questions?

 

 

 

Happy New Year … again

It’s another New Year. Happy 2018! It seems the New Years come and go really fast and after just recovering from Christmas were expected to be all festive again.

I hate New Years, until the last couple of years I was always scared to admit that. I wanted to be all positive every New Year’s Eve and would talk about having a fresh start and making all my dreams come true but the truth is every time I’ve said that I’ve know I’m lying and I’ve felt that sinking feeling that comes with failing to believe your own bullshit.

So now I acknowledge that I hate it, I hate all the “New Year, New me” stuff, because in reality the only thing that’s changed is the number on the end of the date. I’m the same person at 12:01 that I was at 11:59. I hate New Years resolutions because I believe if you want to change something, truly want to change it, I’d do it whether it was New Year or not.

Last night though, I learned something. There’s something freeing in admitting the truth. I acknowledged that i don’t like New Years and that generally it makes my mood quite low. So I put a plan in place that meant I was in bed by 10pm and would miss anything I might find difficult to deal with. I had no expectations for the night, just that it was a night like any other. So when at 10:30 I found myself hammered with my brother and his girlfriend walking to the pub to bring in the new year, it felt like a real celebration, something I wouldn’t normally do, something chilled but something that felt exciting because my expectations were low. That sounds like the old keep your expectations low and you’ll never be disappointed way of thinking. Which isn’t what I mean, I guess what I’m getting at is when you don’t put pressure on yourself to be ok, you might find that you enjoy yourself, or even better end up actually being OK.

New Year’s Day meant I ended up in the normal depressive spiral of fuck another year, I don’t want to, gross, why is everyone so happy? But by marking actually going out for New Years and attempting to celebrate there was respite from the negativity, a distraction and some fun in the midst of the chaos.