Out The Other Side

Posted: June 26, 2018 in anxiety, Life, mental health, Panic Disorder, truth-telling
Tags: ,

It’s a funny thing. When you hear the words “mental illness” the first image that pops into your head is someone’s head. Yours, or the stranger on the street, gabbing away incessantly to no one.

Yet, when you experience it yourself, the symptoms often don’t occur in your head. (Or in my case, at all)

It hits you like a cold. You don’t go looking to catch a cold, and you sure AF don’t go looking to become mentally ill either, despite all of the innocent phrases that start with “I must be going out of my mind!”

Mine came right out of the blue. My boss had asked me to take over for him for a week – something I’ve done countless times. The work is easy, even though it’s more high profile and you get the big bosses asking you things. It was what I’ve always done, but at a lower level: boss asks you for something, you go looking to your subordinates to provide answers. The people working for you are the real experts, so you learn to depend upon them, and you promote the hell out of them whenever you can, because you know how valuable they are to pretty much everything.

It’s no different when you’re a higher level boss. Like I said, I’ve done it many times before. There just was no reason for this time to be any different. Yet it was.

I made a comment in a Facebook discussion group about how I was having trouble sleeping because I found it hard to breathe.

One guy, a retired doctor, responded “dude, I’m not going to try and diagnose you here or anything but if I were you, I’d check with my doctor.”

I appreciated his concern but didn’t take it seriously until the following afternoon, when I found I was having trouble breathing during my waking moments. The more I thought about it, the worse it seemed, so I hastened down to the emergency department of the hospital. After a day of testing and prodding and poking and ultrasound, the emergency doctor said “Are you feeling anxious about anything?”

I had to wrack my brain. It took me a while to figure out it was the upcoming acting manager gig that triggered the anxiety. Which frankly, I thought was stupid. There really wasn’t anything to worry about. But there we were, and that’s when it all started, last summer.

The last time I wrote about anxiety (Looking for Sunrise), I hadn’t yet started any meds. I went about six weeks suffering multiple panic attacks, as the meds took their time kicking in. The days were so dark, I was afraid of everything. I was housebound, and even within my apartment I refused to open my balcony door. I knew if I did, there was a good chance I would look over the railing, and thought would become action.

There was darkness everywhere. I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t talk about it and I didn’t know how to handle it. I prayed for death and at times thought about how to do it.

The first med I tried – Zoloft – only made things much worse. The second one was better but it took about six weeks – all of which was spent away from work – before it finally began working.

My team noticed immediately. “Wolf, you’re sounding like you’re back to your regular self. Do you feel better?”  I said “Yeah, I really do.” And I did.

Gone was the darkness. Gone were the suicidal thoughts. I was back to normal, with one important difference: I knew this was because of the meds.

Also, I didn’t realize how resilient I’d considered myself to be, until this all happened. And now that confident sense of resilience is gone. I’m aware of how fragile I am.

So there you have it: my mental illness showed up as an inability to breathe properly and as a very warm hollow feeling in my stomach. There was no cerebral symptoms at all. The mental illness showed up everywhere except in my head. Weird.

There’s a lifetime of valleys and drama and death that I know have contributed to this newfound fragility. I have to address them, which is why I’m now seeing a psychologist. And it’s why I’m now looking hard at retiring as soon as I possibly can.

One other thing. You know how all of those commercials and PSA announcements about mental health involve telling sufferers to reach out to various people, phone lines and the like – all in an effort to avoid suicide?

Yeah, that doesn’t work. People like me who suffer from this stuff have zero ability to reach out to anyone. All we’re looking for is a way to get the darkness to stop as quickly as possible.

The thing that worked for me was that my loved ones reached out to me. They could do that. I couldn’t do the opposite. I couldn’t reach out to them. My brain just wasn’t in a place to allow me to do that.

Instead, all I could do was turn inward and curl up mentally, buffeted by the winds of my nightmare.


  1. contoveros says:

    Dear Woflshades,

    I believe that we all got some sort of mental illness. It’s only those of us who might be brave enough can admit it and share it with others. It helps me to read about problems people I admire have to face.

    But, how the hell are you going to retire soon? You’re still in your mid-20s from I can gather from your Blog posts.

    Thanks for opening up. If you need a little PTSD to add to your anxiety woes, just let me know!

    Your Blogging buddy,

    Michael J

    Liked by 2 people

    • wolfshades says:

      Thank you Michael. I’m not sure about everyone having mental illness. I didn’t really suffer from it until just recently – well, a year ago, when this all began. I think most of us will at some point probably have to deal with it, or have to deal with a loved one who has it.

      Wish I were still in my mid-20. I’m not though. I’ve paid into a pension for years, and it’s now time to collect on it, I think. That picture you see of me on Facebook is real, and current though. (Humble bragging here). People comment on it all the time. Probably has something to do with my Mohawk ancestry.

      I know you’ve mentioned your battles with PTSD. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. It’s somehow liberating when you open up about it though, isn’t it? I’ve decided not to keep silent about my struggles either. I couldn’t before now, because when you’re going through it, it’s difficult to say much of anything at all about anything. (Or at least that’s how it is for me).

      This is a new age, where people are more accepting, generally, on this issue. I suppose if I were still upwardly mobile, I might be more reticent to share it.


  2. I’m so glad that you are meeting with a psychologist. This is like cancer, it must be treated or it will grow and spread. Even when it feels like you’re better, when you think you’re in “remission”, you still need to treat it, keep on it and take care of it. It is a lifetime care. I’m sorry that you have this, but I also know you are doing the best you can and walking through it. This does NOT define you. Just like cancer does not define who a person is and all that they have done and are sharing with the world. But wow…. your strength in dealing with this, with sharing your story, is fierce. And I thank you for that. The courage alone to know you need help and then to share it to help others, to help yourself, is powerful. Thank you for that. It is inspiring!


    Liked by 1 person

    • wolfshades says:

      Carmen thank you so much for your warm and generous thoughts! It feels like I’ve just gotten the best virtual hug ever.

      You’re absolutely right about the cancer metaphor. It’s insidious and, despite the fact that I feel like I’m back to my sunny self – I know it’s lurking there in the background, waiting to pounce. Or rather, that’s what it feels like. Thus the sense of fragility, and the realization that I’m not as resilient as I’d previously thought. I don’t take my mental health for granted anymore, as I used to.

      It has informed my current drive to retire from my job, to get away from anything that would feed that cancer. Hopefully, with the help of my therapist, I’ll get a good understanding of the difference between moving away from soul-sucking activities and just fleeing everything, the latter of which is a real problem with that “fight or flight” deal that comes with anxiety.

      I consider you a true friend, with amazing perception. Thank you again for your loving thoughts.

      You rock.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Always my friend, always.

    With love, Carmen.

    Liked by 1 person

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