I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to be typing here. Given my track record on the meds I’m taking, I’m not even sure it’s going to be remotely coherent. We’re gonna see how it goes anyway.
My life at the moment isn’t great. I hate saying that, cause I feel like I’m complaining about nothing (I feel like that whenever I complain. Guilt? Not a great feeling.), but it’s really not. Long term, I have depression and anxiety and who the fuck knows what else ‘cause my therapists haven’t been able to figure out. Bottom line, I’ve got mental issues, and they often make things hard to deal with.
When you’ve got depression and anxiety, you don’t need any help making your life hard. You never know when you’re going to fall into one of those pits or have a panic attack. And when you do, you don’t have the energy to do any of the things you need or want to do. Nothing is interesting. The simplest things start stressing you out. And every little thing that you can’t manage to get done, because just getting out of bed is a great feat of willpower, is another thing added onto the pile of shit sending your anxiety through the roof.
Snapshot of my life a couple weeks ago: I’m a 3/4 time student (9 credits, 12 is full and 6 is half) and I work full time. Saturdays are my only actual day off. I leave home most days between 10 and 11:30 in the morning for school and don’t get back from work until a bit after midnight. It’s pretty much impossible to come home from work and go straight to bed, so I’m usually up until about 3 in the morning. We moved into the apartment only a week before classes started, so the only time I’ve had to get the place in order is the weekend, but my weekends have been occupied by event after event… which is cool. I mean, I love hanging out with my friends. I know it makes me happy. But it also exhausts me. And my schedule exhausts me. And I’ve been sick, so I’m exhausted anyway.
And being sick, I’ve missed both school and work. I’m not the greatest student. I have a hard time getting myself to do the work outside class. This is not just laziness, this is an actual struggle. My mind just kind of shuts down. So I’m now stressed about not only the full schedule and disaster of an apartment, but also the attendance warnings I’m getting at work and the coursework I’ve fallen behind on.
I haven’t been eating well, because I’m just not hungry. My insomnia gets worse. Getting out of bed in the morning is even harder. I miss more class because of it.
Soon, just opening up the webpage to see what my assignments are for school is enough to make my heart seize. I can’t get my homework done because I can’t find out what my homework is because just the thought of how much homework I might have terrifies the hell out of me. And the apartment.
Fuck, at this point the apartment becomes the issue. Because even though it’s not the issue, it’s the issue maybe I can do something about. But I can’t get anything done because everything bothers me. I can’t just wash the dishes, because the silverware has been put away wrong and a couple utensils are out of place. I have to rearrange the cupboards and line everything up right before I can put the clean dishes away and start on the gigantic pile of dirty dishes. I can’t go to sleep until I’ve done this. I can’t look at the rest of the apartment, because there’s just too much. There’s no way I’ll be able to get enough done to satisfy myself, to be calm about it. I’ll never get to sleep. And I know I won’t be able to get the rest done, either, because dirty dishes don’t stop being made. It’s not a one time chore. And we manage to accumulate a lot of them rather quickly.
Almost everything my roommate does is bugging the hell out of me. Or everything she doesn’t do. Most of this stuff isn’t a big deal. Almost all of this stuff isn’t a big deal. But it’s a big deal to me right now. Why am I the one doing everything? How hard is it to get some order around here? I’m busy, too. Why do I have to be the one to juggle everything?
I worry about everything.
I live in a constant state of worry and lethargy. I need to get things done, I don’t have the energy or time to do any of it. I’m crying often. I hate everything.
I wake up one morning and my neck hurts. I’ve had this before. It’ll go through my shoulder and up my neck. If it’s really bad (and it is this time) it’ll go up to my temple, down my spine, and through my arm. My hand will sometimes go numb. Usually it’s a bad day, I sleep, and then it’s gone for a couple weeks. But it’s so bad this time I don’t think I can make it to work at all. I spend a couple hours with an icyhot patch, crying in pain and doing my best not to move at all. I can’t afford to just take a day off of work anymore. I’ve missed too much. This means I need to get to the doctor. The urgent care I go to is closed by now and my insurance doesn’t cover much in this area. I have to wait for a call from my dad to see where it’s okay to go.
Telling my dad I’m having problems is not easy for me. I love my parents. They have been beyond amazing. I’m not a good communicator, though, which sometimes makes things strained between us. If there is one thing I want out of my life, it’s to make them proud. I like telling them the good things. Admitting I’m having problems, to me, is like admitting I’m not good enough. That I’ve failed. And the very idea that they might be disappointed… it’s a horrible, horrible feeling.
There isn’t an urgent care at the hospital I go to, so I end up in the emergency room. I’m in a lot of pain. I kind of hate my life. I’m worried this is going to cost my parents.
The doctor there is nice. He’s seen similar symptoms and thinks I have a bulging disc in my neck. This disc protrudes past the bone of my spine and presses on a nerve connected with the areas I’m feeling pain. He seems like he actually knows what he’s talking about rather than just making a guess and brushing it off, which is how I have been handled in the past. I’m used to being treated like I’m exaggerating and am just there for drugs or an excuse from work. It’s probably kind of sad that this is a high point for me. I’m relieved. Someone knows there’s something wrong with me. It’s not just all in my head.
Because it feels like that sometimes. I spend so much time thinking and worrying about everything, questioning my own thoughts. I complain and then brush it off because who really cares what’s wrong with me? I’m functioning and that’s what matters, right? What if, really, I’m mentally causing myself this pain for attention? That’s how the doctors have been treating it.
But no. Something’s actually wrong with me. I am actually in pain. And maybe, finally, there’s a chance I can be fixed.
The doctor gives me vicodin and steroids to help the pain and hopefully get the pressure off that nerve. He tells me to make an appointment with a neurosurgeon to get an MRI. He smiles at me and tells me I’m going to be okay, because I’m going to get treated, for a problem that I really do have.
I’m in a ton of pain, but I’m probably the most hopeful I’ve been in a while.
But when I get home, the stress is still there waiting for me, and now I’m in constant pain on top of it. And I need to work up the courage to call the neurosurgeon.
I have a fear of making non-social telephone calls. I don’t know why. I can usually manage okay once I’m actually talking with someone, despite being really stressed the entire time. The initial making of the call, though… it terrifies me.
And then, when I finally do make the call, they tell me I can’t get an appointment with them without a referral from my primary physician.
I’m new to this area. My current insurance doesn’t cover much around here. I don’t have a primary physician. My dad tells me to call the emergency doctor back to see if he can give me a referral. It’s going to take a couple days for me to work up to that.
In the meantime, my pain hasn’t gone away. I finally hit a breaking point and put up a list on the fridge, notes to myself and my roommate to try to keep at least that one room from being a disaster. If I can just have that one room, maybe I can also start getting other parts of my life in order.
It’s a work in progress, but there is progress.
I’ve missed an exam in one of my classes now. The class I’ve been most stressed about, even. I need to talk to my teacher about the issues I’ve been having, the physical and the mental, and see if I can still manage to pass okay. I have a problem talking to authority figures, though, so I chicken out of everything besides making up the exam. I end up leaving one of my classes early ‘cause the vicodin is wearing off and I have to drive to work, so I can’t take another one yet. The meds are doing a number on me. My thoughts are even faster and more random than they usually are. I can’t even read during my downtime ‘cause I’m too busy thinking, thinking, thinking. I’m all over the place.
I skip class the next day, today, because I still hurt and I just can’t manage to get myself out of bed. I had set a few small goals for myself, so I could start taking some baby steps in feeling like I was accomplishing something. Put the clean dishes away, clear off some of the bedroom floor, put up a curtain so the morning light stops waking me before I want it to. I can’t even manage that. Moving is just… hard. I still can’t miss work though. I cannot put my job in jeopardy. I’m planning to ask to leave early, ‘cause everything is hard, but I need to go and struggle through as best I can.
I eat, shower, walk back and forth in the apartment a couple times trying to figure out all the things I need that I’m forgetting. My stomach hurts a bit. I’ve had stomach pain before. I have inflammation in my stomach which means I can’t take NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory pain killers like ibuprofen and aspirin, which apparently help anywhere but your stomach.) I figure it’ll pass. Maybe I’ll be uncomfortable, I’ll just really have to hope they let me go early.
I’m in my car, halfway to work, and the pain is excruciating. I feel feverish. I’m way too warm, and I can’t focus on anything, and I’m a bit worried I might pass out. Do I need to pull over? I can’t be late for work. I cannot put my job in jeopardy.
But there’s no way I’m going to be able to work once I get there. I’m not even sure how I make it up to HR without keeling over. They call paramedics, and I get taken to the hospital. I don’t want to. Ambulance rides are expensive. They’re telling my parents. How much is this going to cost them? Why can’t I keep myself from being a nuisance? But I don’t have anyone around here that can come get me, and I can’t think straight, and I can’t just stay there like that. I let them load me up, worrying the whole time. When my dad calls and tells me he’s going make the 45 minute drive up, I can’t do anything more than apologize.
I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m sorry I’m not stronger. I wish I could be better for you.
I spend a long time answering questions I don’t really know how to answer. My stomach’s feeling okay now, but my neck still hurts a lot. My heart rate is about the only thing they can tell is wrong since even resting it doesn’t want to go below 110. They talk at me for a while. They draw blood. My dad and I have the heart to heart I knew was coming. It always comes. I always dread it. I can never keep myself from bawling my eyes out. It’s really not very flattering.
But really, this is the point to my story. My dad tells me my mom didn’t come because she knew she’d stress me out. It’s true. She always has all these questions, which is just because she’s worried and frustrated, but it always makes me feel like I’m under interrogation and at fault. He questions me about school. I figured he’d probably guessed I was struggling. It’s kind of my old routine. So I admit I’m having some issues. I try to make it seem like I’m not as bad off as I feel like I am, but I’m not currently capable of passing off a lie like “I’m doing fine.” He says he thinks I’m overworking myself. I admit I probably am. I admit that I feel like I should. If I’m not working toward something, I’m not accomplishing anything, even if I’m just burning myself out trying to do it.
He tells me he’d rather I drop the classes I’m struggling with all together. He would rather I take that time and do stuff with friends, work on my art, fiddle with some crafts. He would rather I just work this decent job and spend the rest of the time doing stuff that makes me happy.
This isn’t a foreign concept. I’ve seen it plenty. It’s okay to do things you enjoy. You don’t need to work yourself to death to meet someone’s standards and suddenly you’re good enough. You’re okay as you are. It’s okay to be happy.
It’s one thing to know this as a sort of fact of life. It’s another entirely to realize that this applies to you.
I didn’t think I was overworking myself. I thought I was doing what I should and just wasn’t up to par. I couldn’t make the cut. It wasn’t the load that was the problem, it was me. But that’s not really the case, is it?
It’s still hard for me to say that. It’s hard for me to think that I’m being too hard on myself. It’s hard for me to accept that no one expects me to take on such a load; that I don’t actually have to. Part of me is still rebelling against the idea that it’s okay if I have some free time and take it easy. It’s okay to actually just have the time to do the things I like rather than having to make or steal it.
I don’t actually have to earn the right to be happy. I really can just let myself be. And that’s okay.
How weird is that?