I started a new job this week…well, that was the plan anyway. I worked half of a day on my first day, two days ago, because my cat got very very sick and we ended up having to put him to sleep. That was not fun.
Then this morning I drove to work in the middle of a panic attack that started last night. I made it exactly three steps into the building before I ran out the door and puked in the parking lot. I was hyperventilating and sobbing, my vision was blurry, I was thinking really dark, disabling thoughts:
- Maybe I’ll be in a car accident and I won’t have to go back in there and face everyone
- I’m a pretty useless person if I can’t even make it through an entire day of a relatively easy job that I got so I could have a stress respite
- I don’t deserve to be happy
- I should probably do something to hurt myself since that would match the pain on the inside, and it’s closer to what I feel I deserve
- I can’t do this I can’t do this I can’t do this
Intellectually I know that these are lies my depression was telling me, but the feelings were so strong. The thoughts caught me off guard and I fought them as hard as I could in my crisis state. I had so little rational energy and focus that I couldn’t make myself walk back in the building or think about doing anything else but sitting in my car and sobbing. Because…???
I told my employer that I was having some “mental health issues” and that I was seeking professional help. I’m sure they will all be afraid of me now, and I’m not sure that my job will be safe if these episodes continue. Fortunately they know me from when I worked there many years ago, and they know I’m a good worker when I’m well. I do have that going for me, but it didn’t make me feel any better as I struggled to breathe and stop sobbing in my car outside the building.
I took half of a Xanax and started to drive home, hoping to get there before the med wave hit in full force. My vision was still blurry and it was hard to breathe, and I couldn’t stop sobbing, so I pulled over several times.
One place I pulled over was in front of a donut shop. I sat there and stared at people going in and out of the shop and I realized something. People don’t walk nonchalantly into donut shops; they run. They cannot get in there fast enough. They’ll leave their cars unlocked to save time, they’ll push in front of each other at the door, and their faces are lit up with pastry anticipation. When they walk out of the donut shop, they walk slower as if starting the carb coma early. Their faces have a serene look of satisfaction. They have donuts – nothing can stop them now!
I made it the few blocks from donut shop to home safely and got on the phone with my therapist. The dark thoughts are lingering, and the Xanax is keeping the panic and anxiety at bay. I still can’t help feeling like a dead weight.
It feels so bizarre to be unable to accomplish something simple because of my faulty brain chemistry. We are adjusting my medications currently, and that always makes me very very fragile. It opens me up to severe anxiety and severe depression episodes, almost without fail.
Those of you who deal with mental illness: how do you deal with your employment on the days when your brain chemistry doesn’t allow you to function? What do you tell your employer? What do you tell yourself? Have you ever been terminated or had to quit for mental health reasons beyond your control? Ever encountered any discrimination because of mental illness?