“I’m broken. Fractured. From arm’s length there’s no indication of anything wrong with me. And sometimes, even arm’s length is to close for my comfort — physically or metaphorically. Very often it’s tempting to keep all but a very select few at a comfortable distance. I’ve gotten pretty good at masking it.”
From Fractured which you can read HERE
The question had been hounding me for days. It wasn’t so much the question that I was avoiding. It was the answer. I didn’t want to ask, because I strongly suspected what the answer would be. If I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t hear the answer, even though inside I not only knew the answer, but that avoiding it would only exacerbate the issue. Conversations with trusted contacts only confirmed my suspicions. But still I hesitated. Avoiding the issue was only feeding it, and the fact I was continuing to avoid it was a clear indication of the problem itself.
Over the weekend it was weighing heavily on me – can I keep avoiding the issue? Denying it’s as bad as I think it is? Can I just ‘willpower’ my way through as I have countless times before? Yet despite being away from work all weekend, I was on edge. The gnawing uneasiness continued to grow. I continued to overreact to circumstances and situations. I started to prepare myself for what was likely the inevitable.
Monday morning I went to work. Monday afternoon I let them know I wasn’t going to be there on Tuesday, that they would need to find someone to take my shift, as I wasn’t handling life very well.
Tuesday morning I called my doctor’s office minutes after they opened. Busy. Waited 10 minutes. Called again. Busy. Waited. Debated scrapping this new course I had plotted and gone back to toughing it out. Called again. Got through. I requested to see my doc that day, that it was very important. Receptionist said she wasn’t sure, that the computers were down. Said to call back later. I waited. Again, debating just abandoning this plan and willing myself to survive, and hoping that by sheer force of will, I could make it. Called back. Busy. Called again, call dropped. Called again….and waited on hold. And waited. And waited some more, every few moments a receptionist checking in to see who all was waiting on hold and who hadn’t been talked to yet.
Finally I got through, and spoke to the receptionist again. She said my doc was only working until noon, and then would be gone the rest of the week. I was terrified. I told her I needed to see him. That day. That it was urgent, that my mental health was bad…. I held my breath as she clicked away on her computer.
*pause* “I have an opening at 11:30. That’s the best I can do. Is that ok? Can you make it then?” I could sense her concern, despite the professional tone she maintained.
“11:30. I’ll be there. Thank you.”
My pulse had been racing. I’d been holding my breath, but I didn’t realize it. I grabbed onto the kitchen chair and just focused on getting oxygen back into my lungs and fought off the dizziness and nausea. Eyes closed, relieved yet terrified… the ball was now rolling. I was committed now, I wouldn’t allow myself to back out anymore. And I stopped myself from considering what would have happened if I hadn’t pushed for the appointment. Doing so was very abnormal. The alternative, although not definitively, would have likely ended in tragedy.
I spoke to my doctor – and even though he’s “just” a GP, he has a better grasp on mental illnesses than most. I explained everything that was going on. How quickly I was regressing. How despite me knowing that he knows my diagnosis, that inevitably I’d gloss over how I was doing. I told him the suicidal ideation was back, as bad as it’s ever been. That I’ve started to have auditory and visual hallucinations. That I’m either hyper-focused, or more scattered than dust on a windy day. That I’d started drinking a lot heavier than I have in many years. That working one shift completely exhausts me on every level. That when I’m at work I can hardly give a decent effort, but yet when I’m home from work my mind is still at work, and usually fixated on all the negatives. That 6 hours is a great sleep, and that 2-3 hour nights are not uncommon. Moments of paranoia. Exhaustion. Emotional whiplash, peaks and spikes within hours.
I requested stress leave, and he wholeheartedly agreed. For now, the leave is approximately 6 weeks, although I will not be surprised if that gets extended. Honestly, I’ll be more surprised if I can recover within that time frame. But, because I have insurance through my work, they require a specified window, even if the doctor’s note specified “tentatively”.
Yesterday I did very little. Cleaned under the stove top. Not because I was forced to, or even because I felt forced to, but I saw it needed doing, and had the energy and focus to do it. I went to the local vape shop and hung out for almost 2 hours. The parts in between I was at home relaxing. Listening to music.
This morning I went to help friends put up Christmas lights on their house. Partly because I enjoy helping people, and they had asked for help. Partly because they’re my friends. Partly because I wasn’t thrilled about either one of them going up a ladder onto the roof. Several factors cut that venture short, and I was back home before long, feeling overwhelmed and defeated. *side note: this couple has known me many years, they’re well aware of my struggles. The request for help was as much for the help as it was to get me out of the house for a bit*
This morning should not have been as difficult for me as it was, and a few months ago it wouldn’t have been as completely exhausting as it was for me today. Since I got home from the Christmas lights (mis)adventure I’ve done nothing, really. Watched a bit of TV. Scrolled social media. Cleaned up my inbox. Started this post. And I’m realizing just how incredibly fragile I am.
I don’t mean physically.. I don’t know many 40 year old guys who could just go for a run, and clock just shy of 5km/3mi, and in under half an hour, no less. I haven’t trained in months. And it honestly wasn’t that hard physically. Staying focused mentally and not letting myself stop, that was the bigger challenge. But the fact that 4.25km in just over 25 minutes wasn’t even challenging shows I’ve got endurance. Strength. Focus.
Yesterday was not taxing. Earlier in summer I could have handled cleaning the stove and hanging out at the vape shop relatively easily, on top of a standard day at work. Today, again, was probably something I could have handled on top of a shift at work. Or at least I could have a few months ago.
However, now that the pressure (real or imagined) from work is off my shoulders, I don’t have that distraction driving me forward. I don’t have that blind determination holding my shell together. That sheer “I must survive because I cannot quit. Quitting is admitting defeat.” attitude, as unhealthy as it was. And now that I don’t have that, I’m starting to see just how far I’ve fallen into the hole.
And just so I don’t leave everyone hanging – I will be okay. I don’t know how long that will take, or what the journey will look like. I just know right now I’m very very fragile. I can’t take much on, and I’m trying to adjust to that. It’s so easy to go overboard when the new limits are far short of what I’m used to handling. But that’s part of healing. As are the bi-weekly doctor visits. Planning and scheduling meals and sleep, so I have some structure. Allowing myself to feel. To be. More importantly, to rest. As the weeks tick by, I’m sure I’ll move on from ‘recovery’ to ‘rebuilding’. And both of those might be a long process.
I’m fragile. Fractured in many ways. I might be on the mat, and ‘down for the count’ as the saying goes. I’m feeling weak. Part of me is screaming just to tap, to submit, to just get it over with, to make it stop. Part of me wonders how many rounds I can go, how many times I can stagger to my feet after getting beaten to my knees. The answer is one that has carried me in the past.