'Reality . . . what a concept' - Robin Williams

Published on 03/06/2016 by Jennifer Sanderson
I grew up in rural, blue collar Durham, Ontario, not too far from where Kendra Fisher was born and raised.  As the oldest of three children, I not only paved the way for mischief and mayhem which always made our neighbours talk, but also to be that rock, that one child who would watch out over my two younger brothers, protecting them from those bullies on the school yard, help with their homework but also to shield them for what was about to, unbeknownst to us, rock our world forever.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was seven years old, immediately pushing me to take on a role I was not at all ready for - a caregiver and maternal figure to two boys who desperately needed their mother as much as I did.  We were never allowed to bring any problems home from school and if something was going on, we certainly could not discuss them with mom for fear of upsetting her during her chemo treatments.  All we knew was, if she got worked up, she would just get worse and worse.  Internalize what was bugging you, do not burden people outside the family with what was bothering you as they have their own issues and eventually, they would go away.
Looking back on my childhood now, hindsight being what it is, my depression and anxiety started way back before my mother passed away.  No child should be asked to take on this much without cracking.  To this day, I can have things bother me to the point where I have no idea what caused me to feel this way in the first place.  I found music to be my release, playing the piano for hours on end, creating some of the most emotional performances I could muster in me.  The more upset I was, the more emotion was poured out on to the ivories. 
I continued to believe there never was a problem inside of me.
Throughout high school, I would experience issues breathing, feeling like my chest was being squeezed in a vice, my upper back killing me as I tried with futile effort to just have a deep breath.  I would go to specialist after specialist enduring test after test trying to solve the issue.  I even started up with a chiropractor who would do the ole snap, crackle and pop, providing short term relief from this pressing issue.  It had to be something physical, yet no one could put their finger on what the overall problem was.
My emotions continued to be all over the place going into university, placing friendships in jeopardy as I just couldn't get my act together.  Guidance workers concluded I wasn't cut out for university with the demanding work load and how different it was from high school.  I demonstrated to them never place the odds against me as I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English.  I found myself starting to rely on self medicating to numb the pain and hurt I was experiencing on the inside, without truly realizing what the problem was.  People would say I was like the Winnie the Pooh character, Eeyore, not knowing what kind of mood I would be in from one day to the next.  Some days I wouldn't want to get out of bed before noon, some days I wouldn't get dressed until 3:00 in the afternoon and some days, there was no motivation at all to do much of anything.
I found that by working ridiculous hours at the job I held at that time, a manager of a very successful restaurant in Hamilton, I could bury whatever was bothering me, focus on a specific task and thus, not deal with anything.  This eventually fizzled as once again, the emotions I had buried for so long began to come to forefront, as my boss gave me the ultimatum - get help or you will be finding another job.  Since I thought I enjoyed what I was doing, I went to receive help.  It was upon my first visit to a psychiatric nurse at Hamilton Healt Sciences I was diagnosed with OCD, manic depression and social anxiety.  With the help of medication, weekly visits, I was forced for the first time in my life to come face to face with the matters which had plagued me my entire life - I was not destined to take the world on my shoulders, I have to live for me, and to deal with things head on, when they are presented to you rather than putting off for another day.  Finally, I could talk about things, put my issues to rest and move on with my life.  A one time thing, once I dealt with it, I would be done with it, not have to worry anymore and finally move on.
In the past year,  I have experienced a tremendous set back with the diagnosis, battle and ultimately, the loss of the one person who seemed to be that final bridge between myself and the memories I had of my mother - my dear aunt.  The anxiety, the depression, the mood disorders, the OCD, everything has been sent into overdrive with that sense that I am completely out of control.  Yet, there is no way I can really stop what feels like me spiralling out of control.  Sure, I could take time off work but with the cost of living in today's world, who can truly afford to take "emergency leave."  Living in the area I do, it feels like there isn't much help available professionally to get this all sorted out.  I have received medical attention, returning to medication and receiving more in an effort to get things back on track.  Most importantly, this time around, I have a tremendous support system of friends whom I can just lean my head against and say, thank you for just being you.  However, my old self comes through, not wanting to burden them with my dark world as they have so much going on themselves.  Self medicating has once again found its way to numbing the pain, wanting to talk yet I don't, pulling someone close yet pushing them away at the same time. 
The fight continues but for how long is the question.  I've always found a way of just getting tired of being in a funk, tired of this wallowing by just saying enough is enough.  Will this time be any different or is there actually light at the end of the tunnel?
 

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