Thursday, April 30, 2009

March 10th, 2008

Ever have one of those know, the one that most of us have when nothing goes right or precisely the way you want it to? The one that leaves you feeling defeated, drained, exhausted and fed up? The one that makes you want to run home as fast as you can, find a tub of ice cream and a big bag of chips and then hide out in the basement with the ringer on the phone turned off?

Now, ever had one of those days for 6 months straight?

By March 10th, 2008, I had certainly had my share of those days. Amidst quitting smoking and being a newlywed, I was stuck fighting with bosses, colleagues, competitors and even family and the new husband about everything, and anything. All the while, I was trying to throw up all appearances of being the perfect replica of June Cleaver. By March 10th, everything came crashing down around me, and I had failed at everything (so it seemed).

In to the doctor I trekked, wearing every last ounce of emotion I had brimming up, squarely on my face. All I wanted was the happy little pill that would let me get back into the office calmly enough to suck it up once again. Little did I know that the happy little pill would come with some time off work (starting immediately), and the opportunity to really explore my feelings of inadequacy. Exploring those feelings at the surface, would only let me feel them more deeply in the coming weeks. Apparently, I've been doing this so many years that I can't remember the last time I didn't feel stressed. In fact, I used to say with complete honesty that I was one of those people who thrive under pressure. All true until it catches up with you.

This is nothing to say of the problems we have in diagnosing and treating depression and anxiety in medical terms. With no psychiatrists accepting new patients in Ontario, and family practitioners who are shooting from the hip in finding the right cocktails for their patients, and employers and insurance companies pushing you to jump back in the fray, how can a patient begin to feel comfortable dealing with their feelings in the highest stress areas of their lives and know that at some point they will realize success? Family physicians, particularly in Ontario, will tell you that the majority of their patients are being treated for these disorders, that they are generally a result of stress and poor ethics in the workplace.

I can tell you from experience, that while there are hundreds of well intentioned and highly trained people out there, that no one has the secret fix to mental illness but the patient themselves. At least in the area of stress related depression and anxiety/panic disorder. There is truth in that balancing the hormone levels in your brain through medication will help, and indeed with great results in some patients, but the fact of the matter is that in stress related disorders, it is my feeling that this can only present you with the opportunity to heal yourself (using cognitive therapy with the help of medical and social work professionals and most importantly through personal growth).

These are also isolating disorders. And I believe that because they are disorders that not only thrive in their isolation, but the isolation itself adds to the complications and developments of stigmas. We need better ways of reaching out to one another to help one another through this journey. We need survivors to advocate for and with us. Especially given the lack of readily available doctors. We have social programs that are really picking up the slack to help us, but sufferers also know that we still need something more. That something none of us can put our finger on to describe is a super strong network of support not just in the areas of treatment, but particularly in the area of returning to work. A network that isn't compromised by insurance affiliations with our employers, a network that isn't primarily focused on the marginalized sectors of our society, but a network of professionals who can articulate what we need most. A safe corporate environment in which we can feel comfortable that we will not suffer repurcussions for our disorder...better yet, a corporate environment that wouldn't be a significant contributing factor to our disease in the first place.

Finally, we need people to fess up to the fact that while there are thresholds that allow us to diagnose someone with any of these disorders, that in a stress related disorder, some of it has to be allowed to be natural. None of my symptoms would be abnormal if I were an animal living in the wild. In fact, I would say that none of my symptoms would be unnatural either, given the circumstances in which they surfaced. So why aren't we claiming ownership of our instinct anymore? Why isn't alright to be pissed off? Why isn't it ok to let people know that what's happening (whatever it may be), isn't right, that it isn't comfortable? And why do we feel like we can't refuse to step over our own instinctual lines? I'm hoping that through sharing our ideas here, that maybe we'll find out that we discover that this is just one more place in which we've allowed ourselves to be controlled by corporate management - those people who ultimately profit from our efforts to please them.