It was a Monday and just like every day before work, I woke up, got changed, and got ready to go. Except this Monday was different. The day before I was filled with anxiety and dread. I had the “Sunday Scaries”. That night I slept badly and felt nauseous thinking about the week ahead. I kept telling myself I could get through it.
That Monday morning, every action took more effort – choosing what to wear, putting clothes on, putting makeup on, packing my lunch, etc. All I had left to do was pour hot water in my to-go mug and get out of the house. I collapsed and completely broke down.
I had an anxiety attack.
I couldn’t stop crying. Breathing was difficult. I didn’t make sense. I just knew that I could not go to work that day.
After calming down, I called my parents, and broke down again. They knew I was struggling at work, but they did not know it was this bad. They hung up, made a doctor’s appointment, came to my place, and took me to the doctor…
I thought I was someone who had it all together. I was getting married, owned a home, and had a good job. But I couldn’t escape feelings of doubt, dread, and exhaustion. I felt lethargic and apprehensive about everything.
My career has always been important to me. I go above and beyond in the work that I do and it’s gratifying to know that I’m doing a good job. But my managers wanted more and more from me. I managed large-scale campaigns from start to finish, managed a team of four people, and managed relationships with key stakeholders. In my opinion, the work that I was doing was above my pay grade, but it was a good opportunity. I pushed through it and continued to give it my all.
I felt like I was continuously not meeting their expectations. What I perceived as my skills were considered my weaknesses. Not feeling good enough, not feeling valued, and feeling overwhelmed were the key ingredients to the anxiety attack I had. This had been going on for months. For me, the attack came out of nowhere, but it was a ticking time bomb that was bound to happen soon.
After seeing the doctor, I was prescribed anxiety medication and took a sick leave for 3.5 weeks.
The first week was the most difficult, but I had the support of Andrew and my parents, which helped me get through it. During the second day I felt debilitated and stayed snuggled on the couch. For anyone who is constantly sprinting at full speed, being still can be the hardest thing to do.
I could not have gone through my mental health leave without the support of my dad. He’s retired, but has gained a lot of wisdom through life experiences. He told me what I needed to hear.
“Right now, you are sick. You tried to go to work, but it’s like when you have the flu. Sometimes you get out of bed, but you know you shouldn’t go to work. It’s the same with mental illness. Do not feel guilty about this. You are sick and need to take the time to get better. Once you let go of your guilt, you can start to heal.”
I started feeling better and better each day. I would set one goal for myself every day and spent the rest of the time restoring my mental health. This was not a vacation. I needed every day of the 3.5 weeks to heal.
A lot can change in a year and now I’m in a much better place. Since my sick leave, I left that job and began working at the BC Women’s Health Foundation, a place where I know the work that I’m doing improves the lives of women across the province. I got married and spent a lot of time with family and friends. I started to enjoy life again.
That time period was the most difficult experience I’ve ever had in my life, but it was the wake-up call I needed to pause and reflect on what I needed to change.
Why am I telling this story?
It may look like I have it all together, but mental illness can affect everyone. I’m telling my story so that I can break the stigma against mental health and help others. I am not ashamed of taking a break to take care of my health and I want others to know that it’s okay if you are not feeling like yourself. This is my #BellLetsTalk story.
Going through mental illness is very difficult especially if you feel like you are alone. Luckily, there are a lot of resources available. Check out Bell Let’s Talk Day’s website to learn more.
If you need support, please do not hesitate to reach out.