Blog Post —
Smoke & Mirrors
August 13, 2020
Almost one year ago, I was on the cusp of experiencing a mental breakdown. As I look back to my Facebook memories and IG archives, it was quite obvious my breaking point was quickly approaching. I was posting so many quotes that resonated with me.
I vividly remember feeling happy. I just got married and had just accomplished a HUGE work goal that was 3 years in the making. But, for some reason, I felt empty. I felt like I had no identity because so much of who I thought I was, was surrounded around my professional life. After accomplishing such a huge work task and after planning a wedding, I didn't have anything to do.
I'm always so focused on achieving another goal that now I was left alone with my thoughts and with myself. Who was this woman? I didn't know her because I rarely spent time with her. When you finally face yourself and have time to only focus on yourself, shit gets real.
It's like I put so much into my job and focusing on the professional version of myself, I forgot about me outside of work. Y'all, it was not pretty. My thoughts and my emotions were ugly. I did not know the person I was at this point.
I could not describe how I felt, but I knew I didn't feel right and that I needed help. I recall having a conversation with my mom. I am sure I was just rambling and crying, but in the midst of doing that, I heard the concern in her voice. That was my first clue that something was happening that I never experienced. I later had a conversation with my husband, and again I rambled and cried. I looked up and saw the concern all over his face.
Wow! I'm actually in tears as I type this because I clearly remember how two of the people I care about the most were so concerned and helpless. From their facial expressions to the tone of their voices, I knew I had to seek help.
I immediately applied for a leave of absence and scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician. Let's just say that appointment was frustrating and damn near pointless. While trying to manage my mental health, I was also worried about job security so I needed my leave of absence to be approved ASAP. *Random note here: I urge you to see medical providers who can relate to you. This is so important, especially as a Black woman.* During this initial appointment, I shared everything that was happening and damn near begged for help. She prescribed a low dose anti-anxiety medication and an anti-depressant and referred me to what I thought was a therapist.
Now, remember, I am a medical professional. I am a registered nurse with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice with 13+ years of experience in the nursing profession. I am not new to this; however, when the medical professional is the patient, tables turn and you forget all about your professional training.
As I said, I thought the referral was for a therapist. So 2 days following my initial appointment with my primary care physician, I go to this "consultation" where I am asked 50 million questions. After answering these questions, this lady tells me, "Ok. It seems you would be an appropriate candidate for our M-F group therapy program. We accept your insurance...Blah. Blah. Blah."
I'm thinking I'm answering questions then we will discuss my very urgent mental health needs. Oh no! During my very vulnerable time of need, I wasted time to be told about something I was not interested in. I felt like this was a marketing appointment to promote a new cosmetic line or some random product. Y'all, I was so angry and frustrated. Do you understand why people feel like they have no other choice than to commit suicide? I know this is heavy, but I understood in that moment the problem with our mental health care system. It fails us! Luckily, I have a great support system, but if I didn't, I can't guarantee I would be writing this post today. At that moment, I felt defeated because it is now Day #5 of me feeling helpless and I have yet to receive the help I need. I filled the prescription but I did not take that medicine because I needed to talk to someone about my feelings and thoughts. During the marketing session, the lady also provided me with a list of therapists in my area, but strongly encouraged I consider the very expensive group therapy. Bye Felicia!
I decided to take matters into my own hand. I saw a therapist for a few sessions in 2013-2014 so I decided to look her up to see if she was still available. Luckily, she was and contacted me immediately to schedule an appointment. I went in the following week for my first appointment. After the initial assessment, I was diagnosed with severe depression, generalized anxiety, and PTSD. WtF?! This was worst than I thought. She also recommended I begin the medicine as prescribed, and she provided immediate relief when she signed my leave of absence paperwork.
I know this post is a lot, but this is so cathartic for me.
I had weekly sessions, took my medicine as prescribed, and slept a lot. Guys, one day it took me 12 hours to fold one load of laundry because I kept falling asleep. Adjusting to medicine was something serious. Also, depression is real and that shit makes you a whole other person. I cannot even begin to explain the lethargy I experienced. My only goal for each day was to take a shower. I remember learning about depression and caring for patients who were depressed and they always said it was too hard to take a shower so they would go days without showering. I kept telling myself as long as I shower, I am going to be ok. But getting out of the bed to shower physically hurt my body. I had to provide myself with pep talks to just get out of bed.
This is my reality. It's not cute, but the killing thing is so many people thought I had it all together. That's because social media allows us to put on the Smoke and Mirrors show. Don't let social media fool you into thinking anyone has it going on all day, every day because they do not. Houses are dirty, dishes are in the sink, couples argue, dogs shit everywhere, life happens.
If you made it this far, thank you. I hope you take something from this post and remember to take care of yourself. Jobs are temporary. The professional version of yourself is only a small piece of who you are. Do not lose yourself for a job. I promise you, jobs come and go. I promise you, life is short. Always listen to your body and your mind. Your mind is just as important as your physical body. Mental health is important!
Help is available:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 Available 24/7
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor. Free 24/7 support at your fingertips