In September, a few months into a new relationship with a wonderful man that I have known for 9 years, I got mono. Except I didn’t know it was mono until late October. Sure something was wrong with me, and already prone to hypochondriac tendencies, I became incredibly anxious about what was going on with my body. I had crazy theories I won’t even share because they were so ridiculous. I couldn’t function at work (duh, I had mono).
Finally, I found out it was mono one lovely Saturday at the emergency room, and it was somewhat a relief to know… but the anxiety stayed. And it spread to other parts of my life. I became deathly concerned with things regarding being in a relationship for the first time. And then my worries extended to understanding my spirituality and faith. And then it was just life in general. And the end of the world. It seemed that no matter how many things I finally resolved (each being the “worst thing ever”), I found a brand new, scarier issue to become fixated on.
I spent hours at work staring at the ceiling, feeling unable and unwilling to focus on anything but the bad things in my mind. And when I came home, my wonderful boyfriend let me cry and watched my face contort when a fear in my head became too much for me to handle. And so it went, from October to ..well now. Recently, I realized it would be helpful to my boyfriend to know what the processes in my brain are like, and what he can do to help me when I start to sink. In fact, there are many people in my life trying to help me, so this applies to them too. It’s a lot easier to reach someone who is struggling when you understand what’s happening in their head. Thanks to my friend Sue’s inspiration, I thought to share it in visual form.
Helpful things to say:
- Deep breath
- These foods have vitamin B12, have some.
- Let’s go for a walk
- Trust God
Not so helpful, though well intentioned:
- But your life is so good
- Pick yourself up
- You can’t be like this!
(In my boyfriend’s defense, he never says the not so helpful ones. I am a lucky lady.)
I don’t know what’s going on with me, really. People I have spoken to think that the mono brought my body down so much that it also messed with my brain chemistry. Thoughts going too fast, jumping to the worst conclusions…that kind of thing. All synapses gone wonky. Reading others’ stories, I know my struggles aren’t impossible, and certainly could be worse. I know I can’t be the person I was made to be for others if I am so focused on myself, my thoughts, my fears. I have my first meeting with a therapist on Saturday, and other projects in different areas of my life to get back to being me, but better. I am sure there is good that will some day come out of this. At least, it oughta make for a good story in a few years. 😉
This is part of our yearly #SACommits series on mental health in Student Affairs. This May, we are exploring what mental illness looks like using different forms of expression – photos, drawings, videos, writing, etc. We hope to create better understanding of what it is like to live with mental illness, in an effort to stomp out stigma. Each week will have a theme -Throughout the lifespan, With Loved Ones, At Work, With Myself. For more information, see the intro post by Kristen Abell. Check out the other posts in this series too! You can also join the conversation by using our unique #SACommits Selfies print outs.