When I started this job I convinced myself that everything would be fine. When things became not so fine I told myself that I just needed to get a grip.
You’re just being pathetic.
Everything is fine, stop being a drama queen.
You’re imagining things.
Others have it so much worse than you.
Don’t you realise how privileged you are?
Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going.
You disgust me.
But today I decided that enough is enough. Everything is not fine and it hasn’t been for a few months. And telling myself to get a grip doesn’t seem to be helping. Hiding away from the world isn’t helping either. Nothing I have tried is helping.
I live a half life now. I’ve stopped seeing friends, stopped going to church, stopped having cuddles from people I love, stopped talking, stopped singing, stopped everything except working. (Except of course when I went out with colleagues and look what a success that was.) That’s not the life I want to live.
I’ve known for years that the only way to erase stigma against mental illness in the workplace is to talk about it. Even though I know that, I decided that it was too big a risk. But today I made a new decision: Not talking about it is an even bigger risk. I have to value myself more highly than that. My faith in Jesus hangs by a very thin thread these days but some small thoughts have prompted me in the darkest parts of recent nights to remember him. It’s just a little whisper:
“Look at me.”
When I was trying to pull my thoughts away from scary things I prayed desperately for help and I remembered coming across this verse:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
But I couldn’t think of anything like that. That’s my life these days. I can never remember anything true or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable or excellent or praiseworthy. Never. For months I have been overwhelmed with terror, plain and simple. So I prayed for help again and remembered this verse:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
I imagined a face. It was blurred but it had a smile and that was enough to hang onto for another couple of hours until my alarm told me to get up for work.
I can’t say with any honesty that I’ve seen a direct impact of God on my life for a while now. Like I said, half life. I haven’t remembered these verses and gone on to have an epiphany. The Christian life doesn’t always work that way. I still think awful things about myself and my life, I still panic all the time. My every waking and sleeping thought is filled with fear wrapped in tar. God’s voice is only a tiny little black dot that gets easily swamped amongst all the other thoughts clamouring for my attention.
Anyway, I finally dragged myself kicking and screaming into my boss’s office and told him that I have a mental health condition. I fought against a panic attack beforehand, called my husband and my dad to try and get them to let me off doing it, my hands shook like leaves the whole time and I think I looked like a frightened rabbit, but I did it.
I’m trying desperately to remember that I am more than this. And that by holing myself up, being so desperate to hide my weaknesses away, I am actually doing myself a disservice. I am not OK, I am not fine, maybe I am even not very well right now. So I’ve made a couple of small steps. I’ve told my boss some of the things that haunt my mind and risked having the mental label applied to my forehead again. And I’ve made steps to going back to band at church, something I’ve hidden from since November. Initial signs on both counts are good. I’m incredibly relieved and upset at the same time. Hubby tells me I’ll sleep well tonight. Good night all.