Digesting my Diagnosis
Hey everyone, welcome back to Shades of Tay - blog style!
I've had complete writers block and have been totally absent in terms of my blog, I try my best to explain the reasoning behind my absence in this post.
Let’s rewind to last April - before I went away on vacation I saw my family doctor and voiced that I think I need to go for a full psychiatric evaluation. However, I knew I didn’t want to have my evaluation done at Southlake Hospital in Newmarket as my previous experience with their mental health department was not positive. I pushed my doctor to reach out to Mount Sinai for my referral and within 3 weeks to a month the hospital had called me to book my appointment. I wanted a Friday for my appointment so that I could head up north to visit family and process what was said in the appointment with them, the next available Friday they had was November 2nd… that’s right, 6.5 months to get my evaluation - I was extremely overwhelmed knowing I would have to wait so long but relieved to know that my road to recovery was underway.
In those 6.5 months I did some traveling, started a new job, lost a friendship, celebrated my 5 year anniversary with my love, and celebrated 1 year of running Shades of Tay Photography. It was a big and busy year for me, with lots of change so you can see how challenging it could have been knowing I wasn’t well but not knowing exactly what was going on. Just like anyone else some days were harder than others, but if I’m being honest I really don’t remember feeling 100% for more than a day at a time.
Finally November comes, the Friday morning before my appointment I was feeling extremely anxious, my brain was doing the “what if I do have an illness?” “will I drive my loved ones away?” “Will I have to tell work?” “Will I lose my job?” the what if cycle is always my biggest obstacle. I drank lots of water, looked in the mirror and told myself “whatever happens today, we will cross that bridge together - just like everything else you can do this.” so I got in my Uber and made my way to the hospital, checking in at the reception and asking for specific instructions on how to get to the 9th floor so I didn’t get lost. When I was sitting in the waiting room I started to feel panic, I contemplated getting up and walking out and just as I went to shift in my chair the psychiatrist came over to me and gave me a warm hello. He walked me to his office and I tried my best to get comfortable.
The beginning of the appointment was fairly simple - he asked me questions like “how old are you?” “How many siblings do you have?” as the appointment went on the questions got more difficult asking about past relationships, family dynamic, past traumatic experiences, etc. I talked about things I haven’t talked about that in depth in YEARS - I feel like I was opening a door I thought I had closed. But the truth is I just closed the door without walking through it, I have many experiences and issues that I never really truly have dealt with. I’ve been on and off meds, in and out of therapy before this and I used it all as a temporary fix as soon as I would feel “better” I would stop any avenues I was seeking for help. After about an hour and a half of answering questions and shedding a little bit of light on what’s been my life the past 8-10 years, the psychiatrist explained the five major types of anxiety. Which are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Social Anxiety Disorder - each type has a different meaning and different triggers, each disorder can also vary between patient. So which one do I fall into? Generalized Anxiety Disorder - excessive anxiety or worry about things such as person health, work, social interactions and everyday life. The anxiety and worry then can cause problems in areas of the patients life. Symptoms can include feeling restless or on-edge, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, easily irritable, muscle tension, difficulty controlling feelings of worry and sleep issues.
Now that I know what I’m dealing with my next question is of course going to be HOW the heck do I manage this disorder on a day to day basis?
The psychiatrist suggested a few different avenues I could seek - therapy being the first specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, local youth groups, he also provided modules to work through on my own time - I will link them at the bottom. After our appointment I wanted to take some time to think and digest all the information. I told myself you have the weekend to wallow and feel bad for yourself, but that's it. Come Monday you are grabbing this disorder by the balls and doing what you need to do. So that's exactly what I did - I stayed in that weekend, ordered food, watched movies, cried, and napped... A LOT. That Monday after work I started to read the modules on my iPad to get a sense of what I needed to do, during my breaks of reading I started to research therapists in my area.
About a month later I saw my family doctor to go over all the notes from the psychiatrist, we chatted about medication and she said it wouldn't hurt to try so she gave me a month's supply of Celexa. Starting out she wanted me on the 10mg and then I would move up to 20mg (which I am now taking). After my doctor's appointment I sent a whack of emails to therapists I was interested in having a consultation with. There was one woman that really stuck out to me so I called her and left her a voicemail, she called me back and we set up a consultation for that night. I was so nervous, yet excited that I was finally getting back into therapy and starting the necessary steps to coping with my anxiety. Our consultation was set for 8pm, she was supposed to call me - around 8:05pm I gave her a call, in 5 minute intervals I would try again until it hit 8:30pm and I gave up. She never answered. I thought to myself "so you're telling me one of the things you specialize in is anxiety, yet you just left someone who has JUST been diagnosed completely hanging? No cancellation, or rescheduling, just don't pick up the phone? This has gotta be a joke." It was SO hard not to just throw in the towel and give up, but I decided not to - I used the next 30 mins throwing out a few more emails to therapists I thought would be a good fit. The next day I got an email response from a lady named, Emma - her response made me feel accepted and heard. We chatted on the phone that night for about 30 minutes to get a sense of each other and determine whether we would be a good fit for each other. I explained to her that I was looking for a therapist that could offer me one-on-one sessions, someone that had experience with anxiety disorders, past trauma and someone that could help me navigate coping mechanisms to proceed with everyday life. Two weeks later I had my first appointment with Emma, it was comfortable and relatively easy to start opening up. Since it was only the first appointment, I really just got to scratch the surface on how my anxiety affects my day to day life and the way I feel I experience the symptoms because everyone feels it differently. My first appointment was right before the holidays which for me personally is an extremely exhausting time - but I was thankful that I could ask for professional advice on how to manage my holiday chaos without it feeling so overwhelming. I just find the holidays can be so stressful with the pressure of buying gifts, contributing food, so much socializing. I found carving out some downtime to myself each day whether I did anything during that time didn’t matter. Some days I would just lay down that would give me some energy to get through the next day of events. Alcohol seems to be at every events but I really didn’t indulge too much because I wanted to be as present as possible.
Going back to work after a much needed 12 day break was extremely difficult, it definitely took some time getting used to. After about 2 full weeks back I finally found I was back in a good routine with work, going to the gym, meal prepping, etc. So now after getting back into the swing of things, experiencing two therapy appointments, taking steady medication - I feel confident about the coping mechanisms I have learned so far. I am looking forward to continue my learnings on how to navigate my GAD during day-to-day life. It's extremely easy to get down on yourself and feel different once you've been diagnosed - I found myself feeling exposed and I thought that my anxiety defined who I am. It's taken me a few months to realize that my anxiety is just a part of who I am, but I amount to so much more than just anxiety. I am a smart, driven, caring, funny, family and friend loving soul - my anxiety may make me a little different but at the end of the day I am still human and deserve to have a life full of love and laughs just like anyone else. I may have to work a little harder to stay focused on what's important but that's okay because I can do this 💪.
If you are struggling please don't struggle in silence - we all deserve the proper support and care. #MENTALHEALTHMATTERS
Thanks for reading, until next time!
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