Telling My Story

In hindsight I never stood a chance. Both my mother and father are both professionally diagnosed with a lovely array of neurosis. There was no way I would come out unscathed by the amount of mental illness that runs within both sides of my family.  Back that up with being raised in a time when mental health wasn’t even a blip on the radar.  My generation still had the old school views of “suck it up”, “the kids just hyper”, “they’re just a bad seed”.  Serious problems were blamed on puberty, hormones, etc. I don’t even really remember how I first brought my depression/anxiety to my PCP, but i think it began with my fathers bi-polar II diagnosis…

I remember being prescribed multiple anti depressants with horrific side effects. Weight gain, mania, self harming thoughts, people harming thoughts, insomnia,  just to name a few. My PCP was less that supportive and i was tired of swallowing pills with terrible reactions. I closed that door, so did my practitioner.  Nothing was ever addressed again. I simply thought this is just how it is. After all, Xanax was the equivalent to a tic tac and opioids were prescribed to everyone. Maybe this was just life?

Now, I try to look back as far as I can. Why do I hate the holidays? Why do I hate winter? Did something happen?  I was always sick in December. I always remember being sad. Being removed. Being more self destructive during those late fall/winter months. Drinking excessively was the norm and pretty much the only way I was leaving the house (not to mention alcohol is so commercialized and normal no one would have ever noticed the issue then). That’s the funny thing about re-occurring cycles, I don’t think you really notice how frequent/timing until it’s been quite a while Almost 15 years later I’m realizing the big pattern. My wife pointed it out to me that for most of my life I lived in survival mode. My father was incredibly abusive to my mother, myself, our pets, our home… basically anything he came into contact with. My mother suffered debilitating depression and she truly managed everything in the best way she knew how. I now love and admire her for how she was able to truly survive her illness and protect me at the same time.  Sadly, the damage was being done and the foundation was laid and this is where i have been for many, many years… in survival mode.

Being in a healthy and safe relationship has allowed me to recognize patterns and behaviors that are still keeping me in a state of survival mode. I simply thought everyone suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety. But what I didn’t realize was that it isn’t normal to lay in bed and sob for no reason for days or weeks. It’s not normal to have rolling anxiety attacks. It is not normal to have panic attacks that render you helpless and exhausted. It isn’t proper to purposefully isolate myself, be as mean and ruthless as possible just to push people away because the only emotions I could process are anger and happiness because those were two acceptable emotions for you to express as a child/adolescent.

In the past year, I have had two (what I would consider) bad episodes. Maybe even the worst simply because of where I am in my life. Until this past year, I blamed a lot of the episodes on seasonal depression, toxic relationships, poor stress management, etc. Bad relationships with people who only triggered and mocked my mental health. Prescription drugs and alcohol. Financial stress. Family dysfunction. NOT A SINGLE ONE of these issues plagued me this year. As a matter of fact, my life has been pretty phenomenal the last 4 years. Better every year to be exact…. except when it came to my mental health.

Apparently this is/was hard for most people to believe. Whenever I would open up to anyone the first question is always “how are you and crystal?” Honestly this pissed me off more than anything. I thought “how dare you”.  How obtuse, how ignorant. I despised that people are so quick to project their own issues with their relationships onto our relationship. Anyone who gave a damn to pay attention to how my wife and I interact would know that’s impossible. Hell, you don’t even need eyes to feel the love we have for one another. I know most people don’t believe how perfect my life truly is. And this is exactly why I am choosing to write about this. Not because I want anyone’s sympathy or attention. If you know me these are the last two things I want from ANYONE. I don’t like attention. I don’t like emotions. But it upsets me so much that people (including myself) don’t realize that you can be “strong” and suffer from mental illness. You can just be anxious. You can experience depression.  I’m not saying for no reason, typically it’s latent unresolved trauma and/or chemical imbalances but it’s not always the spouse, or the kids, or someone’s job… My wife is nothing but supportive. We have an amazing life filled with more than I ever imagined I’d have. So what the fuck is my problem? I know what my problems are and they aren’t big enough to cause this. Is there really something “wrong” with me? I will not lie, it’s been hard for me to deal with but I am sorting things out. And they’re for me to deal with along with my medical care team and therapist. But what I realized is I am not alone. And it makes me so sad to think of other people who have felt and feel the way I do/did.

If you have ever been so depressed you just wanted to disappear you’ll understand some of what I am talking about. I’m not talking necessarily about actually taking your own life… but just literally wanting to disappear because you think everyone around you would be better without having to deal your shit (and yes I’m aware this still counts as suicidal thoughts). To ME it feels a little like this… I’m so anxious about leaving the house I would rather rip my skin off I know it seems extreme but there is so much happening so fast in my mind that I spin out of control and I want to come out of my body. My head and chest are so full of this creepy crawling feeling that I want to just explode in public just to get away or out of a situation. When my friends/family take my “bad attitude” personally but in all reality I am scared to death and I am in pure panic and I am only trying to deflect everyone from my general direction because I don’t want anyone to see me like this or I am scared of how I may lash out— the point is you’ll never understand if you haven’t suffered from mental illness.

Maybe you’re asking yourself why share this if you don’t want attention? I like helping people. I want people to feel okay with themselves. Shit, I would like people to understand me better. On the outside people say I look happy, confident, secure, maybe even intimidating. I’m sure people think I’m a bitch as well (admittedly i can be). Point is, these aren’t traits of a depressed person. A lot of the time I don’t even know I’m headed in this downward spiral until it’s too late. One minute I’m on cloud 9 then I’m falling down this endless pit. It just happens.

For the past two years I have had more bad (mental) times than good. I recently chose to leave a very successful job of 5 years. My mental health was deteriorating and it became painfully obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic that I did not want to return to this place. Full disclosure… I had been considering leaving for 2 years. I just didn’t know what to do. I had promised myself that I would NEVER change jobs again. What did I learn from this? Never say never.

****Side note: I didn’t even want to give the satisfaction of even addressing rumors but since there’s so many out there floating around I may as well give MY version of MY reality and what was happening to ME.  NO ONE “made” me leave, NO ONE influenced me to leave, NO ONE “took me with them” and if you want to talk about a “ring leader” let me be the one to tell you I lead my own ring over here so lets just cut that shit out immediately.

I considered changing careers. I considered moving away to start over. I really didn’t know what to do. Having written the original draft of this on a late night/early morning in January I still had no clue what was going to happen for me. I had recently been given the opportunity to become an independent educator and that was giving me vital energy to push forward. I had previously applied to be an educator and couldn’t accept the position because I was no longer working with this brand in salon. So when this opportunity presented itself I was so happy. When this new opportunity became peppered with greed, jealousy, rumor, miscommunication and hatred I realized so many things that I just could not look past or continue to be a part of. Then COVID hit. Everything came to a screeching halt. During the time off I didn’t even want to think about my career. I was so over hair and anything related to it. The several weeks off were everything I needed and I won’t lie, I LOVED quarantine! I was being optimistic in thinking that I would be off work through the summer so when the governor announced we could return to work in 2 week time I was devastated to say the least. I missed all of my clients and friends but I couldn’t shake the physical and mental symptoms that plagued me. It was a very quick decision to leave but that decision left me feeling free and happier than I had been in a while. I knew I made the right decision instantly.

So there it is folks. Yes it helps me talk about my mental health struggles, but I also want to help other people feel not so alone. Because I feel alone but I know I am not. I’m grateful for therapy. I’m grateful for phenomenal friends that are there for me whenever I need them (which isn’t often but I know you’re there) and my wife– to whom a thank you doesn’t even come close to being enough. I can’t imagine how people struggle without a support system.

I also needed to take this time to lightly tell my story. A job is a JOB. Yes you need to love what you do. But you also need to love where you do what you love. You are allowed to change careers or jobs. You don’t owe any employer anything but the respect they show you. You aren’t their property or possession. And you are allowed to make decisions that put you, your family, your mental health first. You aren’t “fucked up” or “ungrateful” for changing jobs either. I think living in a small town makes this concept a little more foreign but contrary to the “popular” belief most people change jobs, positions, careers multiple times in their life. It’s also okay if you commit your life to a singular job. Both are your choice and should never be up for scrutiny or debate from others. In fact, if you are trash talking because someone made a career change maybe it’s you that needs it? Maybe you’re jealous? Maybe you are just that miserable that you have nothing better to do but gossip?

So that’s my little story. I hope this gives someone else the courage to seek help, the desire to improve their life, the support to make a big change or the courage to tell their story. I also hope this makes society realize that people suffering from mental illness need support. It is NOT just their mindset, it is NOT their perspective, they don’t need to just cheer up. STOP trying to shrink or invalidate our realities. It is NOT always an external source causing a problem either. After all mental illness is usually some form of chemical imbalance, neurological issue, cognitive/behavioral issue or a delightful combination of things. If someone you know is battling mental illness check on them! Ask them how you can help. Sometimes we don’t want to take the help but just knowing we are on the minds of others can be enough to give you a much needed re-direct.  Let them know you care and respect their boundaries. Some people may be very open (like myself) while others may choose to remain quiet about their struggles.  I hope this insights satiates you curiosity. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think people would want to read this blog just to find some juicy tid bit of drama or gossip pertaining to my recent career move. I hope that if you came for a shallow reason that you are leaving with a deeper understanding. Thank you for you time.