Working through it


Anyone who has been following my social media on Facebook or Twitter, and those who have been reading my blog for longer than a week will know I have Depression and Anxiety disorder.  This has meant that I have had a course of ECT, been on a myriad different medications, and see a psychiatrist and psychologist on a regular basis. All of this is done with the hope that I can continue to exist with some sort of sense of “normality”. A part of that is I endeavour to continue to live my life as though my mental illness didn’t exist; I study, I parent, I work, and I try to be there for my friends. Sometimes things don’t always go to plan.

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So on a weekly basis I see my psychiatrist for a review of the week, not too dissimilar to what I do on here actually, identify any risks or significant changes in my mental state, and then come up with a plan for the week ahead. This week we discussed how the medication had been sitting, how much coffee and alcohol I have consumed, how my week had been travelling, what my thoughts had been like, how my motivation was, how my sleep was, and as always any thoughts of self harm or suicide. Most of the medication had been sitting with me quite well, no significant side effects, and all performing as they should. The only exception to this was the newly added Quetiapine. It was added to help with my anxiety attacks, and at this task it was performing adequately, the only side effect was it made me a little dopey and sleepy, but thats ok nothing an extra couple of coffees a day couldn’t fix right? The Doctor wasn’t too amused by the number of coffees I was having in a day. His suggestion was to completely eliminate coffee, well actually all caffeine, and to assist in this he changed when I take the Quetiapine. Instead of three times a day I take one large dose at night, it helps with sleep, stops the daytime nap attacks, and assists with eliminating caffeine. I may not eliminate caffeine completely, but I will cut down to one coffee a day. Small steps.

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The past couple of weeks have been intense on the study front. I have completed 26 quizzes, written 1500 words for a reflection on my mental health placement, and a series of small written tasks that are more time consuming than actually difficult. The workload this semester has been a little more intense than I had anticipated, compared to last semester, and in fact the diploma, this semester has required a lot of work in a surprisingly small period of time. The period of time may have been made smaller due to the fact that I had four weeks of ECT, a period of most of the semester in varying states of depression, and losing large portion of my memory that cover the semester and its content. This hasn’t stopped me from studying full time however. I intend to keep this momentum for the remainder of my Degree, thus finishing at the end of 2019. Not long now.

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The past two weeks have seen me on placement at a Mental Health facility. Though I thoroughly enjoyed my placement, the staff, the opportunity to learn, and the new experiences, there were some interesting situations that arose that may not have been an issue, if it wasn’t for my mental state. John was a consumer who was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder, and was currently in the depressive phase. John was not an aggressive consumer, nor was he deliberately belligerent, or difficult. John was, typically, a polite consumer who was in the throws of the depressive phase of his condition and didn’t know how to deal with it. With this information at hand the conversation was easier to begin, and it made engaging with John possible. The conversation began with idle small talk about how he was going, what he had been up to and the like.  When he answered about how he was going this opened the conversation up to talking about his feelings, what was making him feel low, was there anything that made him feel joy, was there anything that provided an emotional response other than sadness or depression. By listening to John’s responses, asking open questions, being empathetic to what John said, and engaging with him on a personal level, I was able to draw out more from John, and John was able to see more of himself.  The result of this conversation with John saw the rapport together grow stronger, and the conversation to progress naturally and openly. John began to share his story of life prior to his admission, share on his lost loves, his family, his illness and struggles. It took nearly an hour of general conversation before John began to openly reply without the need to have every piece of information drawn out like blood from stone. He spoke about his illness and how it made him feel, how it skewed his view on things, and how it most likely affected his previous relationships. Personally I was affected by the openness and his story, how his illness has affected him, and how it continues to burden him. As someone who suffers with depression himself I found it both confronting and comforting hearing the story. I found the similarities and the emotions to be difficult to swallow at first, and to be honest it are still a little difficult to process. To think that my trains of thought could continue to develop to one day be admitted to an institution such as the one I was working. To have my thoughts and emotions assessed and probed by someone who was in my situation. That thought still lingers.

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My mental health has not had a more profound effect on anything as it has on my family, and my role as father. Thankfully there hasn’t been a direct action caused by my depression or anxiety that has bought harm or ill will to my children. The effect it has on my children is more closely related to apathy. My mood often places me in the position where I do not want to interact with my children, do necessary chores for the children, or otherwise do the necessary things I need to do as a father. This has weighed heavily on my heart. I feel terrible for not doing what I need to do for my children, but at the same token I have no energy or drive to complete the tasks either. I love my children, I want to be able to say I would do anything for them, and have it be true.

I have not been back to work for several weeks, this has been due to the original mental state, followed by ECT, and most recently I have been on placement. Today marks the first day I will actually be returning to work. I am both apprehensive and excited to be returning to work. Though I have no doubt about my physical ability to do my job, or my professional ability to carry out the tasks my job requires, my anxiety continues to whisper in my ear feeding ideas of inadequacies and shortcomings. The end of the shift will be the only true indicator of how the day will go. I just pray the day goes well.

As with most things surrounding my mental health, my friends have suffered through all this. I have bailed on events, forgotten almost everything that has happened or been said over the past month, and almost actively avoided interacting. Though my friends may not think I have been a lousy friend, it is certainly how I feel. My heart is to spend more time with my friends, give them the time they deserve, be there to support and help out when I can. I hate myself for not being the better friend, which causes my depression to take a dive, which leads me to generally being a worse friend, which leads to the loathing again. Thus the cycle continues.

Though the story above may seem to be now of woe and worry, it is not all doom and gloom. ECT has been a raging success, with my mood improving and suicidality decreasing, the medications have been working with varying degrees of success, my walk with God has helped me keep things real, the time I have spent with friends has been great, and I have managed to find time to spend on my hobby.  Things are still hard, I still have thoughts of being irrelevant or unnecessary, I spend most of my day trying to motivate myself to keep my mood up, I am still failing in more areas than I am succeeding, but I am doing everything I can to,

Maintain The Rage

Luke Sondergeld

One thought on “Working through it

  1. Pingback: Schools Out | Maintain The Rage

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