Mental Illness and What It Means to Me
We lost someone recently due to one of the branches of the large oak tree that is mental illness. Robin Williams touched me in so many ways. Whether it was my favorite movie growing up, playing Peter Pan in Hook, or me discovering his more “adult” stand up comedy in my early adulthood. He made me laugh, he made me cry, he was en expert at his craft.
When the world loses someone of this notoriety, it raises awareness of a serious disease. We have seen a number of athletes and celebrities end their lives earlier than they should have because of the battle they were raging with mental health. Every time we lose a soldier, the internet erupts with awareness. While this is great, I felt it was my duty as a soldier in this battle to share my day to day battle diary with this illness.
I am 26 years old, I am married to my best friend who supports me through the thick and thin. I have been lucky enough to own a house. I have a job that puts food on the table and allows me to experience the “finer” things in life. If you met me in a bar or on the street and I gave you a 30 second pitch of my life, you’d think things were amazing — and you’d be correct.
However, I have dealt with depression and anxiety since I was a young teen. There are two things I have discovered that manifest themselves to rage the war with me. First, I am 100% confident that this is hereditary. Second, life events have helped shape me to the individual I am; the good, the bad, and more than I’d like to admit, the ugly.
Just over a year ago, my anxiety came to a peak. Following a life event (which happened to be the most positive moment of a best friend’s life), I found it impossible to leave my bed, let alone my house. I was secluded. I called sick into work and laid helpless in my bed. My wife, bless her soul, poured out her love and support but didn’t know how to “cure” me. My family, bless their souls, were also looking for a “cure” through their positive thoughts and support.
However, what I realized is that there is no “cure”. There are simply tools, weapons and ammunition that help hold down the fort.
For weeks, I was someone I had never met before. I had always been a socialable guy, up for a good time. An easy going, happy go lucky type of person.
For this brief period, the sight of another human being gave me a panic attack.
I think the word “anxiety” or “panic attack” is used too loosely in today’s society. Let me explain what exactly I was experiencing.
My heart felt as if it was going to jump out of my chest. I vomited at the site of another human being. Sweat, shakes and the inability to sleep were just more of the symptoms I was facing.
It took me two weeks to get the courage to even pick up the phone and talk to a doctor — that phone call is worthy of a blog post of its own. An appointment wasn’t available for 48 hours. I didn’t sleep.
Through a combination of prescription drugs, physical activity, and most of all, the love and support of my family and close knit friends, I have battled my disease. I am proud to say that today I am back to the 12 year old Chad. The drugs don’t change who I am, the therapy gives me a broader vision on what life is all about and the ongoing love and support from my wife and family keeps me fighting every day.
Every day is a struggle and every day it rears its ugly head in certain situations. But, because I reached out for support, I am alive.
More than that, I am alive and kicking ass.
This post is really just to give a personal perspective of how mental illness has affected me. To me, it is the same as getting hit with any other serious disease.
It disabled me.
But, through recovery, hard work and amazing relationships, I continue my battle.