MENTAL HEALTH AND ME
Many years ago, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident. Over the years since the accident, the injuries I sustained have affected my physical health and have slowly taken away my independence. Over that time, my injuries have also affected my mental health and I have been hospitalized several times due to bouts of anxiety and depression and thoughts of self-harm.
Since October 2021, I have been an in-patient in mental health facilities for a total of three months. But I have never written about my mental illness because it is so difficult to explain what goes on inside my head when anxiety and depression strike.
Some people refer to their illness as the ‘back dog.’ My father referred to his bouts of depression as ‘being in the doldrums.’ But I see my illness quite differently. I see my mental illness as an ‘inner demon.’ When I am well and my life is ticking over quite nicely, the inner demon sleeps somewhere inside my head and does not bother me. But every time I am faced with a physical or mental trauma, the inner demon awakes, invades my thoughts and feelings and turns everything into a catastrophe.
In other words, the inner demon turns a molehill into a mountain that seems impossible to climb. Why this is so, I have no idea. I believe I am a rational person, but when faced with emotional stress and/or trauma, I seem to fall to pieces.
This is when I am at my most vulnerable and feel unsafe in my own body because of my feelings of self-harm.
But the inner demon always has the answer. Hey, the inner demon says, don’t forget your old friend alcohol is always available. You don’t need a prescription and you can drink as much as you wish whenever you wish. Come on, you know you want a drink, there’s no harm in it, you are in control.
It is so tempting and easy to fall back into the alcohol trap. After a few drinks, I start to feel good, the inner demon sleeps and my problems seem to vanish. But the next morning my trauma returns, and the inner demon is there, waiting to take control of my thoughts and feelings. The mountain is also still there waiting for me to make my futile efforts to conquer it. There seems to be no escape.
This is when I seek help.
I go to my GP and obtain a prescription for anti-depressants and a referral for phycological counselling. When I am taking anti-depressants all I seem to do is float aimlessly through the day on a cloud and do nothing. Sometimes, I am counselled and advised to cease alcohol consumption and continue with my prescribed medication and make appointments for follow up counselling sessions. Sometimes I am admitted into my local hospital’s mental health unit because I am a danger to myself.
Since my last discharge from hospital, I am finding it difficult to settle back into daily life and I would be totally lost without the help and support of my wife. I am currently taking anti-depressants, do not keep alcohol in the house, seeing my GP and receiving phycological counselling.
I have also graduated from walking canes to a wheely walker and wear a medical alarm wherever I go. I am still trying to come to terms with these changes to my abilities, but I am very surprised how my fellow beings interact with me. The kindness and courtesy shown to me when I am out and about has astonished me and I am beginning to believe that there is a God after all.
But I fear the inner demon is patiently waiting for any sign of a relapse.