Anxiety Disorder

What it’s like having a mental illness: 7 years later

Growing up, I was an overacheiver. Sure, I was an introvert and social phobic. Yet school was a breeze. I would get A’s despite barely trying. I would rock at most intellectual things I tried. I knew that despite my social failings, I’d probably have a pretty awesome career ahead of me.

In my last article, I was hopeful about the future. The effexor was doing it’s job and I was making progress. This post will talk about what I’ve gone through since then, what has changed and how I’m planning for the future.

I’ve realized that I may never ‘recover’ from anxiety

6 months ago, I started on Cymbalta. Effexor saved me, but it wasn’t as effective as it had previously been. I was exhausted all the time, and frequently lethargic. I would sleep for 11 hours and then need a nap mere hours after waking up. I wasn’t experiencing the anxious symptoms as often but the exhaustion was debilitating.

I went to my awesome doctor two months before I was planning to fly up to Queensland to volunteer at a conference. She reminded me about how much progress I had made and said that “this may be it.” It was unreasonable to expect medication to solve every symptom.

I explained just how much the exhaustion was affecting me and she recommended that we try Cymbalta. I saw a decent amount of improvement. I had more energy. I didn’t need as much sleep. I still got tired easily, and experienced mild side effects. I was able to work at the conference though without getting too sick.

The first months of Cymbalta

Cymbalta was fantastic initially. I had so much energy! I knew it was temporary, but it was so fantastic riding that buzz. I was able to get so much done. I did experience nausea for about four months after I started the 60mg dosage. I would take my tablet in the morning and only have a small lunch. I would often eat something dry that wouldn’t make me feel nauseous. This did lead to an embarrassing moment where I vomited while on a tourist bus to Byron Bay.

It has now been 6 months. I don’t have as much energy as I did initially. I’m better, but I still have a lot of limitations. I get regular migraines if I go out in the sun or don’t get enough sleep. I’m limited in what I can do. I can’t go out as much as other people, or hang out with family for too long, as it really drains me.

This is “it”

I’ve been feeling rather upset lately because I’m realizing…. that this, what I’m feeling right now, may be the best I’ll ever do. I probably wont be able to fully recover. I’ll never be able to have an active social life and vibrant career. I’ll never be able to reach my full potential. I’ll probably be limited in the amount of hours I can work for week. I’ll have to take days off after socializing. I’m even limited in what I can do in my free time.

If I overexert myself, I need to rest. I don’t accomplish anything when I’m lying alone in a dark room. I remember when I got the letter saying I’d been kicked out of uni. I was crying in my landlords kitchen. “I want to accomplish things. I don’t want to be like Glenn, stuck in a generic job for the rest of my life.”

Ironically, 5 years later, Glenn and I are now dating. And, I would give anything to be well enough to be able to do a normal work week in a generic store. I may never accomplish anything real or great. The rest of my life will probably be made up of small interactions and experiences. Which is fine – it’s those little moments that keep you going.

Yet, it’s hard. I’m 27 and may be facing a lifelong disability. It’s taken awhile to accept the term, disability. I’ll probably always be struggling financially. Always turning down opportunities because I’m not well enough to take advantage of them. It’s like I’m a shadow of the person I’m meant to be. It’ll be fine. I’ll probably make slow progress and maybe, one day, be able to up my workload to a whole 25 hours a week. It’s just…. sad. I’m mourning what I had planned for my future.

I probably wont ever have kids

Prior to 2008, I wouldn’t have cared about not having children. They were annoying and loud, and did a lot of poop. Then my nephew was born. He’s had a bit of a rough start to life.

I didn’t plan for it to happen, but somehow we have developed a super close bond. Seth has become my best mate and birdwatching buddy. Seth…. he is such a brilliant kid. Very smart, caring and inquisitive. He wants to know everything. He shows genuine interest in my life. He’s only five! He likes Phantom of the Opera and knows what a kakapo is.

It has been so fun watching him grow up and being part of his life. Being part of this journey has opened up my heart. I know what I would love to have kids someday. I can barely take care of myself. I get migraines often after hanging around for Seth for too long. There is no way that I will be able to care for someone else unless my health improves.

Glenn doesn’t want children. He may be willing to have them one day – if I was able to do the bulk of the work. I won’t be able to, so that’s that. I’m not having children. I’m 27. I know that people struggle a lot more then I am when it comes to the decision to have a baby. But I’m young and don’t have any fertility problems.

It’s my mental health that is limiting me. It makes me feel like such a failure. A close friend said that I have probably made the right decision for me. It wouldn’t be fair to the child if it got neglected because I wasn’t capable of the demands of parenthood. I feel so sad about it, though. I want to be a parent. As I get older, the pangs are going to get stronger. And, I can’t do anything. I know I’m making the responsible decision. I just wish it didn’t feel like I was sacrificing everything for my illness.

So – where does this leave me now?

This post has barely scraped the surface of how sad I’ve been feeling lately. I’m mourning the person I wanted to become. I have to accept lifelong limitations. It’s hard, and it will probably continue to be so for quite some time.

However, I’ve also learned to accept the small things in life. My contribution to the great ‘circle of life’ may be the lessons I teach my two boyfriends: Glenn and Seth. I may impact other peoples lives in ways that I’m unable to see. The ripples of my actions will be small, but those small things can snowball and become something great. I may not be able to have a great career and life, but I can at least make sure that I contribute to the happiness and lives of those I love the most. I can help the careers of people that I believe in.

It’s small… but it’s a start!