Life is Hard
Sometimes life can be difficult, and sometimes we have a mental breakdown. Things have been incredibly hard for me lately and I want to share my journey with you. It has taken a long time, but I have now finally been able to sit down and write this post. This is a sign that I am getting better and improving in my recovery. From my last post, you would be aware that I was going through a rough patch. Unfortunately, that escalated and by mid-February I had been broken. As I’ve mentioned, things happened at work, I was placed into a different role within the hard-waste collection team. This role was extremely physical, something that I was unprepared for and not even capable of.
Talking about Mental Health
I managed to stick with it and keep going for as long as I could, longer than I should have. It was a complete mental breakdown that stopped me from continuing. When I was incapable of ignoring all the negative thoughts and they took over. To a point where I feared what I’d be capable of in that mindset. Drained and exhausted, my usual coping mechanisms weren’t working; the stress, anxiety and depression took over. I was so emotionally exhausted that I could barely even speak.
I put on a brave face and kept going for far too long, I pretended to still be functioning. When really, I had stopped functioning well before this year even started. Through the first few months of this year, I didn’t go a day without having a breakdown of some kind. Whether that was because of a conversation, a song I heard or a situation that pushed me over the edge. There were times when the simplest thing pushed me over the edge, then I’d get embarrassed, and it’d escalate.
I think it’s important to share how I was feeling, but it’s also hard for me to talk about. This is the first time I have ever suffered such a severe mental breakdown. It’s difficult to reflect on those feelings, without putting myself back there. Which at this stage of my recovery, I can’t really afford to do. The reality of it is, that for a long time I was not myself. I had disassociated with the world and morphed into a non-functioning empty shell. Not completely empty, but empty of any light and happiness, instead filled with negativity and hatred for myself. I had turned into a sad, sorry, miserable person. I felt like I was incapable of doing anything right, that I was constantly making mistakes. That I was utterly useless to those around me.
In those moments of self-hate, I was incapable of reaching out or asking for help. I was lost in the negativity and the feeling of being a burden. And I did not want to pull others into my all-consuming negative space.
I struggled to see it at the time, but am thankful to those who were there for me. Mostly my parents, family, and the few friends that I had forced myself to stay connected with. I am also thankful for my gorgeous Izzy; I cannot imagine surviving this experience without her by my side. She was the reason I got up and kept going every single day. During the darkest part of my breakdown, she was my only saving grace, she made me feel human.
Learning to be Proud
To stray away from the negativity, I want to say that things are much better now. I am in a much better place and can now share my story. In September last year I moved into my own house, this was a massive change for me. It wasn’t until recently that I actually acknowledged that though. I should be proud of myself for these accomplishments. Now I am able to finally see that and feel that.
The biggest change in this whole experience is in myself. I am proud of myself for standing up for myself and saying enough is enough. It might have taken me a little too long to get there, I could have done with the mental breakdown, but I eventually did. I put a stop to the mistreatment I was feeling, and I got help for myself. I spoke to the appropriate people at work, and I got help there too.
Work Lead to Breakdown
I’m grateful with myself for being a very meticulous person, I had kept a written document about incidences at work. I had written down everything including dates, conversations, comments, actions, and injuries. This meant that I could easily refer to moments when asked about them and the specifics. There have been several times when I’d been injured, and I never felt those injuries had truly been acknowledged.
I mention feeling like injuries were ignored only because it is significant as to why I let it go on so long. The main injury I sustained from doing such a physical job, was increased pain to my lower back. This in turn effected all other muscles in my body as they compensated. My body was so drained and exhausted that I would end up getting physically sick almost weekly. Each time I got sick I would visit my doctor. He would advise me that my body was physically shutting down from the strain. That it had reached it’s limit and I had needed to change something.
He suggested a reduction in work hours, I knew that that would be hard to manage but I went to work and asked. When I didn’t seem to get anywhere, I then got medical certificate from the doctor. This is what eventually lead to my full mental breakdown, being forced to keep going when I couldn’t.
This photo was taken in early December last year. I don’t recognise the person in this photo, that is not me. I look at this photo now and I realise, I had already dissociated back then. Scary to think that I still kept going for over two more months.
I didn’t realise how significant this photo was until I showed a friend recently. She commented that, had she seen me then, she would not have recognised me. That comment gave me validation for how I was feeling about myself. It is nice knowing that other people noticed the different, it wasn’t all in my head.
Return to Work
In sharing stories about work, I don’t want to paint the company in a bad light. It was not the company that mistreated me, it was just certain individuals. Since I stood up for myself and spoke my truth, my work has been really good. I was honest with them and I told them what state I was in when I had my breakdown. It was hard to talk about, it’s hard to be honest about emotions and mental health in a work environment. You don’t want to show your vulnerabilities and weaknesses, you don’t want them to know you are suffering. Even though the situation is dyer to you, you still feel weak for not being strong enough to cope.
As of now I am back to working full time hours which is at least eight hours a day. I am working in a similar role to the one that I applied for, driving the Heavy Rigid trucks again. My current role is going out in a small side-loader garbage truck. Driving out to different addresses where the bins were either missed or put out late. I get to drive in different areas and different councils. Working at my own pace and on my own. Most importantly I get to stop for toilet breaks whenever I need them.
Breakdown and Recovery
Due to the sever decline in my mental health and the fact that my body had started shutting down. I ended up taking almost three weeks off from work following the mental breakdown. During this time, I was able to get myself functioning again. I also had a lot of different medical appointments to attend. But amongst the appointments and stress about not getting any pay, I was able to take some time for myself. I even got the utilise my new garage studio and do some art for the first time in almost a year.
During this period my doctor referred me to get an x-ray of my spine after I explained the pain I felt. The x-ray showed that my lower spine was out of alignment by over a centimetre. Apparently, this was caused by a birth defect that I was unaware of. However, it had been aggravated by all the heavy lifting.
Since the discovery of this medical issue, I have had several appointments with a physiotherapist. I have had to go to two different orthopedic surgeons. Thankfully, I don’t need to have surgery to fix the problem, just work on strengthening my core muscles. I’ve had appointments with my psychologist and have spoken with a therapist and a psychiatrist. All of which have helped in my recovery. I’m very thankful for my psychologist, I don’t know what I would do without her support.
Moving away from the cause I want to focus on how they have affected my personal life. I moved into my own house, I was excited to get back into art again, to get back into streaming. Most importantly be able to invite friends and family into my own space.
Unfortunately, I was unable to do any of those things, I was in such a state that they felt impossible. In moments when I thought I could use company, I just couldn’t invite people over. My anxiety and depression would kick in and remind me no one wants to be around someone so miserable. I know that was my mental health affecting me, I also know I have people I can reach out too. It’s only in our darkest moments we can’t see that, everything else is too overwhelming.
I have only ever had my parents and a couple of friends over for a visit. In my spare bedroom, sat a collection of birthday and Christmas presents. I kept telling myself they were a reason to invite people over. In the end they became unbearable and a reminder of how useless and a bad friend I was.
A few weeks ago, on Mother’s Day I invited my family here for a BBQ. It was the first time my brother and nieces had seen my place and it was a great day. I felt proud of myself for having new people in my space, another step in the right direction regarding recovery.
Return to Normalcy
Over the last few months I have been slowly getting back to a semblance of normalcy. There are still many things that overwhelm me and I know I’m not fully recovered. I still suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, but being aware of it is a good start. It means the next step is to find the triggers and put into place coping mechanisms.
During my return to normalcy I have tried to put myself back out there, I’ve attended birthdays and other gatherings. I have been reminded of all the people I have in my life, those that would be there for me when I need it. That I have their love and support, which means the world to me. I just need to remember that if the darkness ever returns.
I was also able to get back into art again, I had not drawn, painted or anything in over a year. Art is one thing that helps to keep me calm and at peace, so being able to return to it was important. I actually managed to create something from start to finish and that is an incredible feeling. Especially since it was something I wanted to do since moving into my place.
In the months since everything happened at work, there have been some amazing moments in my life. Even though for some of those events I was still feeling a bit disassociated. I have been very grateful for the people in my life who helped me, so I could enjoy these moments. At the end of February my step-brother got married, and my family officially grew by five people. It was a good evening spent with family and that was what I needed.
The first weekend of March, my friend Jodie and I went to the Air Show together. This was once again an amazing day, nothing will ever compare to the feeling I get when a jet flies past. It was a little overwhelming though, a lot of people and a lot of things happening. I still enjoyed myself and lost myself in the feel of the day.
My Aunty Liva authored a book, sharing her stories and accomplishments with the world. I am so incredibly proud of her for all she has accomplished, and for sharing it. Writing and publishing a book is just another huge accomplishment. I was honoured to be invited to her book launch at Melbourne Airport, in the Virgin Australia Lounge. I am incredibly proud of her for all she has accomplished, and writing and publishing a book is huge.
Please check out and get yourself a copy of Island Girl to Airline Pilot
‘A story of love, sacrifice and taking flight’
I have been trying to write this blog post for a few months now. I just could not find the words or was not in the right headspace for it. Now is the right time, and it’s thanks to a little breakthrough in my recovery that I had yesterday. I took myself out of my comfort zone, I went out and I met a radio presenter. One who I have been listening to a lot and has helped me to find the joy in music again. I listen to their show in the truck, and I feel like I have company. It’s helped me a lot more than I ever would have imagined.
Yesterday I went and met Christian O’Connell from The Christian O’Connell Show. The significance behind this meeting was that I felt like my true self again. I felt like ‘Smiley’ again, and he acknowledged it was the perfect nickname. Sometimes it’s the smallest of things that make the biggest impact. I will write a more detailed post regarding this experience. But I’m thankful for the small opportunity and the change I felt in myself. I wrote a separate post regarding this experience: Meeting Christian.