It’s hard writing this post. It’s hard sharing this. It’s hard coming to terms with it.
I am disabled.
Almost two years ago, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and bipolar disorder (BPD). On top of that, I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from two separate events that happened in my teens.
On March 4th I was fired. This was entirely well deserved, and I should’ve known better. Call me naive, but I think I could’ve prevented it from happening had I been open with my boss about my mental health. In fact, I was already taking steps to stop the panic attacks I had been hiding by scheduling a doctor’s appointment for March 17th, which I had already changed to March 8th.
I am now back on medication.
Now, I know mental health as a disability is an extremely controversial topic. But let me explain what these disorders do to me.
Feeling anxious is a pretty constant state of being for me. I am always worrying about some thing or another, whether it’s if I was accidentally inconsiderate or if my family is going to die in some horrific accident on their way home. See those extremes? At work, I felt so overwhelmed and that every little thing was going to add up to me getting fired. In the end, I was such a mess that I made small mistakes daily that led up to my very large screw-up.
With my panic attacks, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think. My chest hurt and I couldn’t stay where I was because if I stayed in that place (no matter where I physically was), I was going to die. I firmly believe, when I am having a panic attack, that I will die if I don’t move. At work, I would hide in the bathroom or go out in the hall and practice breathing exercises, but this was beginning to happen every. single. day.
What does bipolar disorder mean to me? Bipolar is a spectrum. I attend a support group every week and I see people who don’t even seem like they could possibly be hiding something as versatile as this and I see people who can barely get out of bed or have to be hospitalized on a regular basis. I still don’t know what bipolar looks like 100% for me. I know that I regularly fall into holes of depression that are incredibly difficult to lift myself out of and sometimes things are so good that I have no worries and I can spend every penny. That’s why I’ve had to pay off my credit cards twice now since getting my first one in 2013.
Post-traumatic stress is two different kinds for me. One is where I’ll be driving at night and someone will pass my car and I’ll imagine my brain splatter against the windshield. The other is where I don’t know how to handle any kind of contact with men, whether its a general acquaintance or a full-on relationship. I can’t read the signs because I don’t know what the expectations are after my abusive relationship.
Treatment for these disorders is not easy and it is not one size fits all. The disorders themselves are, in fact, incredibly personal and hard to define. Currently, I am working with my general practitioner to find a medication regimen that will work to make me more functional. I attend my support group each week. And I’ve started to try to check in with people around me to see how they think I’m doing. Typically, I keep a pretty strict schedule for waking up, what I do throughout my day and week, when I eat, and when I go to bed.
It took me almost a year to realize that anxiety was what caused me to stop school, six months for my first job loss, and a horrible experience at this last job to realize that it was a problem that I cannot handle on my own.
The reason I felt the need to share this with you all is because I’ve come to realize just how many people struggle with similar things and just how much it can affect lives. I currently do not have a job and am struggling with the search because of my anxiety. If I was any worse off, I don’t know what I would do. Awareness needs to be brought to this issue because so many people don’t realize just how big a detriment it is for individuals struggling with their mental health.
Lastly, if you are struggling, here are some resources for you:
Colorado Crisis Services with chat, in person, and telephonic capabilities.
Reddit Suicide Watch which has contacts to many different regions.
What are your thoughts concerning mental health as a disability?