Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Mental illness: My years of living anxiously

It sounds so simple, doesn't it?
Baby steps. Take a vacation from your problems.
But sometimes, baby steps are all a person can take when faced with a mental illness.
When my anxiety disorder was in full bloom, it was all I could do to get to the office. I couldn't take the bus. If I got on the bus, in only minutes, I was off it walking sometimes miles to get to my destination,
So Scott had to get me in the car for the drive to work, all six minutes of it.
Every day.
I would clench my hands around the door handle, close my eyes.
It will all be over soon, I would say.
Sometimes, the drive to work seemed like hours, especially in traffic, especially when he took the highway.
When I got to work, I'd rush up the elevator to my spacious office and close the blinds, methodically turn on my computer.
I always got to the office early so I had a half hour to calm myself, have some coffee, read the newspaper.
Guz frabba.
Then, and only then, I could function.
For the two years I had that job, I rarely left the office because I couldn't walk down the street.
I never went to lunch unless it involved copious amounts of wine Fridays when we had the afternoon off.
It was horrible. Except for the wine, of course, it was awesome.
Over my years of living anxiously, I spent hundreds of dollars at the anxiety clinic, the place where psychiatrists in Ottawa treat military victims of PTSD.
Fortunately, I had insurance.
I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had insurance.
The doctors taught me a few techniques like how to breathe from the diaphragm.
We had exercises involving going to malls and concerts.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is what they called it.
Funny story about an Eric Clapton concert.
We got to the then Corel Centre and had seats in the nosebleeds. My head started swimming, my pulse started racing. I made Scott take me up to the place where people sit while in wheelchairs.
You can't be here, said the usher.
My wife is having a full blown anxiety attack, explained my patient husband.
Minutes later, the usher had us seated right by the stage.
Best seats in the house, than you, guvna.
Apparently, mental illness has its privileges.
The good news is that I don't have panic attacks anymore.
They went away after menopause. Obviously, they were related to my hormone surges.
Go figure.
All that shrink money down the drain.
Oh well, my life is so much better.
Don't have that job anymore.
Haven't darkened the door of an office since.
No more sweating in hotel meeting rooms, either.
I work at home making less money than I did when I was 25.
Took myself right out of society, those panic attacks did.
That was eight years ago.
Baby steps, right?

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