Yes, the title is accurate, the best day of my life was being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I expect that most would say something joyous like their wedding day, the birth of a child or travelling to an exotic destination. Not me, the best day of my life was something that would be considered…well, depressing.
Let me give context to my statement. For as long as I can remember, my life has been difficult. I would wander through each day in a state of exhaustion. Nodding off to sleep was extremely hard as my mind was racing through a multitude of thoughts of what could go wrong the next day. I would be late for school and have to walk into a crowded classroom…I would be called on to answer a question… would have to read out loud…someone would tease me…I would get an upset stomach from eating too much (so I ended up eating a single apple each day) etc etc.
When I finally did drift off to a troubled sleep, it was with the knowledge that should I wake during the night, the thoughts would start all over again and I wouldn’t return to sleep. 4-5 hours of sleep per night was common for many, many years.
The sleeping issues continued well into my 20’s, where I started to include girlfriend issues and jealousy into the mix. Needless to say, I was beyond miserable. Though I never actually attempted to terminate the pain with suicide, I would be lying to say that I didn’t often daydream about how I could do myself in without pain to me or family members.
I started to drink alcohol in my early 20’s. It was not uncommon for me to drink heavily several days a week. This assisted in quieting my thoughts and going to sleep but a drunken sleep is not productive sleep. Fortunately, I had developed a passion for weight training that stopped me from drinking every day immediately on leaving work.
This was a time before the internet and mental health issues did not have the profile like it has today. Subsequently, I actually didn’t know I had a problem. I assumed that everyone was going through the same amount of daily suffering I was.
One day I went to the doctor to ask for a medical certificate as I wasn’t ‘feeling well’. This meant I was feeling tired, lethargic and the thought of going to work made me feel physically unwell. I had been to doctors with these symptoms before and was told I had a virus and I would come good in a day or two (which I generally did). This doctor, however, asked if I had ever been to a psychiatrist. Of course not, I’m not crazy person I probably replied, as was my lack of knowledge of mental health at the time. However, with some convincing, I was given a referral for a psychiatrist.
To cut a long story short, after several sessions of consultation, I was advised I suffered depression and anxiety. I was told that the thoughts I had were not common to everyone else. While there was not necessarily a cure, my mental health could be treated with further consultations and medication.
Returning to the title of the story, it was the best day of my life. To me, I understood the psych’s words to mean that I didn’t have to lead the rest of my life in mental torture. My mood was immediately elevated as I had been given something I had never had, hope for the future.
Well, having mental health problems is not all rainbows and sunshine. I have incredibly down times when lifting my head of the pillow is impossible. My mental health has also manifested into other just wonderful problems such as OCD, the abovementioned eating disorder, Social Anxiety and Claustrophobia (now that was just delightful) that I have had to manage. What I do have now is the knowledge that I have mental health issues.
I have not have much success with traditional psych counselling but I have developed strategies that help me cope. I know I will have mediums and lows (highs are very rare) and that if I manage the lows that a medium will come. Perhaps a ‘medium’ seems a terribly sad way to live but when you lived a large part of your life dreading going to sleep and waking up, a medium is great!
I will no doubt touch on my mental health history again in future posts. There have been some considerable challenges but I’m still here today and for the most part, I’m content and happy with my life.