Lately I’ve been feeling like my load is pretty heavy and I’m having trouble with every day functioning. It’s not one thing but a range of things, the latest being that Miss G was diagnosed with hEDS (hypermobile type Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) and has had to have a complete change in diet. She’s also been in a lot of pain recently due to her hEDS leading to inflamation in the growth plates in her knee and ankles causing Osgood-Slatter’s disease and Sievers disease. I already felt like between the two of us our multiple diagnoses were a lot to manage, now there is one more complete with a new dietary regime and more involved pain management.
So I’m already feeling overloaded and overwhelmed. My own mental health has been unstable for the last month or so. I can’t pin point why but I’d say the levels of stress from everything going on in my home life are probably having a cumulative effect on me. I hit crisis point two weeks ago where I left work mid morning and visited the doctor, and ended up with an increase in meds and a week off to try and get back on track. The meds made me dozy and unable to function and unfortunately the rest didn’t really help.
Over the weekend I had an argument with B (Miss G’s Dad) which wasn’t that bad as arguments between the two of us go, but I broke down in tears afterwards and couldn’t think of what to do so I turned up at my parent’s place and cried on my Dad’s shoulder for a good half an hour. And when I say cried I mean bawled my eyes out, to his bewilderment.
This week has been hard. I’ve been interrupted a lot at work, answering queries from a new staff member and another lady. Flexibility and focus are not my strong suits. There’s a lot of external noise around the office (weed eaters, birds, builders…) and my sensory issues have been really triggered. I’ve had client meetings which require me to utilise my limited range of social skills, and because so much effort goes in to masking during these meetings I find them really draining. Miss G has had Education outside the Classroom (EOTC) and this has required special planning and management on my part, plus pain management for her various joint/muscle/tendon problems. Not to mention finding the planning and organising for EOTC fortnight difficult due to my executive function problems. I also had a meeting with Support Net where the liaison person was lovely but basically pointed out what I knew – I’m not entitled to household management help as I earn “too much” (I’m not that far above the cut off) but I have significant areas of challenge, so they are not really sure how to help me. My psychologist has also resigned which is causing me anxiety, and I feel like there are no solutions left for me. That my therapy has reached the end of the road where no one knows how to help me, and I don’t know how to help me, so life is hopeless and pointless.
So I already had all this weighing on my mind today. I knew I wasn’t feeling very stable this morning as I was quite tearful driving to work for no reason that I could work out. My morning was full of meetings and interruptions and the unexpected, which was overwhelming to my already overtaxed system. Just before lunch I was ready to tell one of my bosses that I was struggling and going to take some time out and walk for a bit when I got interrupted again. At lunch I did manage a walk which made me feel a bit better, but then I came back to the office and that’s when things took a turn for the worse.
I had an argument with my older male boss about something I strongly believed was wrong. I also interpreted what he was saying as him implying I had done the work wrong, which I knew I hadn’t but I always find very triggering. He wanted to double check my work to see if there was a way to pay a client’s employee less for holiday pay, and I believed that not only had I got the correct entitlement per the law, but that it was wrong to pander to the client who wanted to pay his staff less wages because he hadn’t budgeted his income correctly.
The argument got quite heated and my boss made some comments I interpreted as derogatory. I knew I couldn’t stay at my desk once he had walked away – I was about to burst into tears and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop. I work in an open plan office and there is no where to go when that happens. I felt a strong impulse to run, to get away. So I grabbed my stuff, slammed out of the office, got in the car, and headed for the nearest open road.
I often feel better driving at open road speed with the music up loud enough I can feel it in my bones and pounding in my chest. The car I have now hasn’t really got decent speakers which is a bit frustrating but as I tend towards music with a strong bass line I can still usually feel the bass in my chest.
Tears were pouring down my face and I probably wasn’t overly safe on the road and I didn’t have any destination in mind. All I could think about was that I wanted that sensation of speed and the feeling of the music to calm me. A good half an hour drive and I was still crying so I came home thinking to try some other strategies. But once I walked in the door I went into total meltdown. I was crying so hard I was wailing, and I was sitting rocking as that was the only thing that felt vaguely comforting.
I tried so hard to think of what strategy to use and I knew I wasn’t breathing enough but I couldn’t seem to calm down enough to breathe deeply. Cold water on my face didn’t help, ice didn’t help. The tears and wailing kept coming and there was so much sorrow pouring out of me that I couldn’t think coherently. I tried to work out who would be around during work hours to answer their phone (all my close family work and don’t normally have phones on them during work hours) but then realised that I was so distressed I’d lost the ability to speak so I couldn’t ask for help. I couldn’t calm down, I couldn’t ask for help, and I was going to be alone till my daughter got home at 7pm (it was 2.30pm) and I was concerned that I would self harm or worse as I felt hopeless and impulsive.
So I got in my car and did the only thing I could think of, drove to CMH (Community Mental Health) with the intention of seeing the Crisis team. When I got to CMH reception I’d only just managed to stop crying, but the minute the receptionist spoke to me I broke down sobbing again and couldn’t stop. I couldn’t communicate what I needed but she was really good. I see her every week when I go in for my appointment and she knows I’m not normally like that so she gave me a hug (also an indication of how desperate I was, as I normally hate touching other people except Miss G) and called the Crisis Team for me, then sat with me till they came.
However…as soon as I started talking to them I wanted to run away again. The words wouldn’t come out and I couldn’t organise the thoughts and remember the right ways to describe things. I couldn’t answer any of their questions, partly because physically I couldn’t speak, and partly because they ask open ended questions like “what do you want us to do for you?”, “what were you expecting when you came in here today”? and I never know how to interpret them. I was so overwhelmed by someone talking at me, especially asking questions when I physically can’t process or answer them, that it was actually painful. All I wanted to do was get up and leave.
I tried hard to communicate with them, and eventually I managed to get enough out that the man could interpret what I had said and relay it back to me. Then the lady (who was persisting in asking me things I couldn’t answer) left to get me a coffee and he asked me some work related things, which gradually brought me back to reality. I think because I feel safe and comfortable in my accounting and business knowledge that it grounded me a little and gradually my speech returned. I was still having trouble stopping crying but at least I’d managed to calm down, breathe and start speaking a bit.
I didn’t really find what they’d said very helpful as they clearly didn’t have much knowledge of my background, circumstances or diagnoses but I could see they were trying to help and so I tried hard not to be annoyed. And it’s not like I was in a position to explain much as I was still not really able to think clearly or fast enough to be involved in conversation. I just wanted to run fast in the opposite direction and get out of there as soon as I could.
I was still crying hard as I drove home but my processing was slightly better so I decided my next step was a swim in my parent’s pool. That was a good way of cooling me off and calming my sensory system and I managed to stop crying after that. Then it was home to cuddle with my ratty and sit in the garden and try and reflect on what exactly had happened and why.
I’m mainly documenting all this for myself but I also think there is a lack of understanding in our community about why people with depression or mental health problems don’t ask for help. Today is not the first time I’ve gone into shut down when overwhelmed with emotion and been unable to explain myself. My communication issues might be more extreme than other peoples but in general it is very hard to explain how you feel when you are really down, and need to ask for help. People tend to be very well meaning but the questions that come up all the time are “why?” or “what happened?”. Sometimes there is a reason but the person may not understand or be able to communicate it, particularly in the moment, or be able to pin point the trigger. Sometimes there are down days and bad days and shit just happens. It is more important to stand beside someone and hand them tissues and be there for them than it is to interrogate them over why they feel that way. I know it’s hard to sit with a person in distress and not try to solve it for them but this is often what they need. This is what I need. This was what the receptionist at CMH did for me today, which was more valuable than anything the crisis team said to me.
Take care out there people. Ka Kite.