Sunday, November 06, 2011

In Which We Speak to the Disease

Hello Bloggosphere,

I have been sporadic here of late; have completely drifted from finishing projects started (namely RIP Challenge, a Study in Sherlock, Great Adaptations) which I have every intention of someday finishing.

My absence however, has been brought on by a certifiable illness: I have a severe anxiety disorder which includes a dash of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, Panic Induced Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and a wee bit of depression.

I am getting the help and treatment I need for this VALID illness and am on MEDICAL LEAVE from work (I have been off work since October 1st and will probably return in Feb: thank God for an amazing company which allows me to take disability/medical leave with full pay) ; but a lot of things in my life have changed ---including my presence on this blog.

I have a wonderful doctor and therapeutic appointments and homework which blends medicative therapy with experimental cognitive therapy; but it has also come at some costs.

1.) READING: The drugs make it VERY hard for me to read. In fact,  where I used to read ALL THE TIME, I read at a much slower pace.  This is a temporary thing; but frustrating. So frustrating that I was sick of having something I truly loved "stolen" from me ---so I bought a pile of Archie Comics, reverted  to my 8 year old self and got to task.

With this slow and painful return to having my mental faculties (exhausted from meds and the small seemingly insignificant exercises which work toward allowing me to reintegrate myself back into society), I have been able to still fulfill some blog tour work and, what is proving a rewarding challenge, read through the INSPYs books  I have been assigned as a Romance Judge. It just takes longer than previously and some days cannot happen at all.

2.) COFFEE: my favourite thing in the world other than books has been taken from me.  No Starbucks. Decaf I have been drowning my sorrows in literal gallons of David's Tea ---God Bless their amazing selection

3.) A SOCIAL LIFE:   My illness has become so advanced that I have had to (doctor ordered) miss my sister's phd convocation, a close friend's wedding weekend, birthday parties, housewarmings, Hallowe'en: all because seeing more than one or two people at a time is impossible right now. Church is out. Crowds are out.

4.) HAND TREMOR AND STUTTER: I started having a consistent hand tremor mid-September at work during our busiest and most stressful time of year. I would hide my hand in my pocket (wearing dress pants and skirts with pockets?  I sometimes wore jackets so I wasn't hoisting out the less attractive wear in my closet)  which advanced once I left work and was finally allowed to show my symptoms (meaning my brain was on autopilot: function,function,hide,function as I went through the motions).  My anxiety has also led way to a temporary speech impediment: I stutter. This is not forever; but part of me thinks that the tremor and stutter are my brain's way of saying: we have kept you a Rachel-bot for so long; we need sometime to let our true colours show.  Also, my way of sub-sub-consciously allowing the world to visibly know that I am sick: so that expectations are kept ( as they should be) at a minimum
ABOUT ALL I CAN READ RIGHT NOW: face it, sorta fun!

I know that Anxiety Disorders plague  many people on the bloggosphere in many ways and one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with was allowing myself to recognize that it is an illness "worthy" of medical leave from work; or life.

We do not look at someone with diabetes, say, or cancer and say: you are taking time off of work for treatment, pshaw!   But, there remains a stigma with mental illness that even I, a sufferer of,  bought into.

It's time to stop that.

I am being completely honest about the illness because I know other people suffer from it in varying degrees.

I know I am not the only person with recurring panic attacks, who hyperventilates, who cannot handle the pressure of being in crowds.

Funny thing is, kids, that I  was the most social person people had ever met. I  have literally dozens of friends, was always the social leader, work in a very people-driven facet of the publishing world and can mingle as well as the rest of them.

When I was told that I was a Conditioned Extrovert, I was not surprised. My real self is most comfortable at a pub with a friend or two; or hiding away in my apartment with tea and candles and a book or two.....

My own stigma and my own rallying against my own disease was shameful. I didn't believe I was "worthy" of time off of work, I didn't believe that I had an illness with a severity that dictated all of the medication and treatment.  My amazing doctor had to continually pull textbooks off of his shelf and point to how legitimate my illness is.

In fact, my accepting it as legitimate, makes his work legitimate. My treatment at a large research hospital in Toronto proves that Anxiety Disorders are so prevalent and so wracking and so real that they must be spoken to in an entire department in psychiatry: that research and articles must be given to a world who still cannot quite grasp what they cannot understand.

I thought that Scott Lynch, author of the Lies of Locke Lamora and the other Gentleman Bastards'  sequence titles I adore to death, was strong and wonderful for opening up about his anxiety and how, as an author, it had kept him from attending events, from writing, from feeling like himself.

I thought I would share it here

A doctor once told me that the reason he almost went into psychiatry is because he feels, in ways, it is the worst of all diseases as it keeps the sufferer from feeling like themselves....

My lack of presence on this blog, the time it is taking me to post on novels that publishers have been kind enough to send to me, the fact  that I have not yet tackled LYNN AUSTIN'S NEW BOOK: are all ramifications of a real, live disease.

I will be speaking to this blog hopefully more frequently in the coming weeks: and certainly as we inch closer to the INSPYs which, as mentioned, I am honoured to be judging.

But I also breathe a sigh of relief: because now all of YOU know what's going on and stigma is often hidden in shame and secrecy.

There is nothing to be ashamed of.  I would never walk up to someone with pneumonia and say "did you have a nervous breakdown?"

The same should keep  us from pre-judging those with disorders which start mentally and show physical symptoms.


Court said...

I am sending you big huge hugs! You know this already, but I am proud of you and I love you and you are wonderful! Take care of yourself - you getting better is the most important thing in the world for you right now.

Steph said...

I found your post because someone I follow had tweeted it, saying it had made her cry.

I didn't cry but I can totally relate. It's amazing how similar our experiences are.

You're much farther than I am in dealing with it all, though. Even though I have panic attacks pretty much every day, and do have OCD, emetophobia, and claustrophobia, I still haven't seen a doctor. I'm not taking any meds (I'm scared of them). I just keep on trucking, thinking I should be able to fix this, bring it all under control myself. But even I'm seeing that I can't do this by myself. Your dealing with it is bravery, not my stoicism that's not working.

I admire you. I hope soon I find the courage to make the appointment and do the things I need to do, because so much is out for me, too, and I don't want to live like this anymore. I've just done it for so many years I can't imagine being normal.

cat said...

I'm here because Court tweeted about the blog post, as well. *waves* I wanted to read it because I just knew I would understand and I DO.

I have had to grow up with the depression/anxiety stigma and I was always at war with my own self because I didn't think it was valid either. But I'd end up worse for wear if I didn't step back and let myself be treated. Now that the mental aspect is slightly better, I have just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and I have to war with myself about THAT condition, too. Currently on medical leave because the pain was so bad I couldn't even brush my own teeth. Lovely, that. Of course being home with the pain triggered a lot of my social anxiety again. It's scary how something can be so delicate that no matter how hard you work to get better, you can relapse quite easily.

I truly admire this post and thank you for speaking about something that's not easy to talk about. The more people who talk about it the more support you'll find.

I wish you a healthy recovery and hope that this flare-up calms down soon.

Blake said...

Good post, R. Keep Calm and Carry On...(when possible). Walk it through.

Most importantly, and I am glad to see you doing this: Define the disease, don't let it define you. You are still you.

Unknown said...

You continue to blow me away, my friend...thank you for sharing your heart. I have been dealing with an uptick in stress thanks to a good thing (for once) -- starting that new job. I know that this will level out with time. But as someone who deals with chemical/hormonal imbalances and swings, it *still* can hit me from out of left field (or so it seems). One of the hardest things to do -- but something that is so so key, as you point out -- is recognizing the legitmacy of the issue. For too long I told myself it was all in my head...but thank God I am not the same person I was two years ago. *whew* Anxiety-related issues WANT to isolate a person -- but thanks to the bravery of people like you, willing to talk about their experiences, well that chips away at that false power.

Steph said...

:) Hi Cat and Court.

Court, thanks for bringing this post to my attention.

Cat, I'm so sorry you're dealing with all this. I am sure that I first discovered you, actually, when I read a post you'd written about having a hard time healthwise. I hope things will improve. I don't have fibro, but I have a coworker who does, and I know it can be very painful. All my best to you.

Jess said...

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

You know, the usual.

Kailana said...

This was a very brave post, Rachel. I applaud you for having the courage to go public with something that is almost hidden in society because of stigmas and shame. I hope the treatment works for you soon, though, and you can return to the fun-loving reader you once were!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Rachel. So many people (including myself) can relate in one way or another. I have a hand tremor and stutter that comes and goes. It's gotten worse the more I have to socialize with people I don't know well. I think for the most part, I've kept it hidden but I'm sure those who really know me must notice sometimes.

It must be so frustrating not to be able to read like you are used to.

You'll be in my prayers.

trish said...

I think you're very brave to share all of this! I'll be keeping you in my thoughts and following along on your journey. I did notice, though, that while you might be struggling in some areas, it doesn't look like you've lost your sense of humor! :o)