The Past 6 Months
Over the past year a lot has happened in my life. Last year I was diagnosed with Social Phobia and Panic Disorder and put on medication to help try to control it. It worked for a little while, but then in November of 2014, my father committed suicide. I won’t get into the details of it, but after the funeral, things started to change. First, let me tell you this: I have found closure. He is my father and I will miss him dearly, and I think about him every day. But he is gone. I am now focusing on getting better myself. My anxiety got worse – I started having 3-4 panic attacks each week – the smallest things would set them off. I went back to my doctor. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Now, with the help of some very close friends and some medication, I am in the process of getting the help that I need.
But still the fact remains. I have a mental illness.
But what does that mean? What does that say about me as a person? Where do I go from here? What about my friends? What if they aren’t okay with me being sick? My family? My coworkers? How do I go day to day when all I can think about is worrying if I’m going to offend someone or have a panic attack? Is medication the solution? What if I can’t find a therapist? What if I can’t afford the medication? How much of my personality does my illness effect? My intuition? my sub conscious? My dreams? Am I just some broken person now?
All of these questions (and more) have popped into my head over the past six-months. The biggest one: What about my friends? I don’t have a lot of friends. 6-7 that I talk to regularly. What if when they find out that I have a mental illness, they want to leave.
Well, as it happens they did. And they didn’t leave. In fact they help me every day. They have helped me understand that I am worth something, and I am important to them. They encouraged me to talk to my doctor about getting into therapy. To talk to someone. Sure, I’ve made mistakes. I’ve said things that offended them and gone nights where they didn’t want to talk to me. But they always came back and they say they always will. True friends.
I’m learning more about my illness every day and I know I will get better. The future has a lot in store for me, and I have to get better to see what is there. To see my friends smile at me without fearing what they hide behind those smiles.
Now, mistakes have been made. Friends have decided that they needed a break from my problems. A break from me. And while my immediate reaction may be anger, it won’t stay. Because I understand them needing a break from this, from my anxiety. Because I do too. Someone once told me that it’s just as hard for those who love someone with a mental illness to handle the person with the mental illness as it is for the person themselves to handle the mental illness.
In my eyes, this cannot be true.
Someone without a mental illness cannot fully grasp how difficult it is to live one. It’s like saying it’s just as difficult for someone to watch actors in a play as it is for the actors to be in the play. You can watch and imagine how difficult it is, but without living it, you can never truly understand what it’s like to not want to get out of bed because you’re afraid of the outside world. Afraid to speak to strangers because of how they judge you. Afraid to let people in because they will only end up leaving you; it’s what everyone has done in the past.
In my adventure to learn more about myself, I’ve taken more MBTI tests (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and Enneagram to try and help me understand why I make the decisions I make, and what my motivations are. It has revealed that I am an INFJ (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging). The label feels good in itself – feels like there are people on the planet that understand me – people who are like me. INFJ is the rarest of all 16 personality types at only 1-3% of the US population. It feels special in itself. Empathy for me is almost like a super power. I walk into a room and I read the overall emotion of the room and it changes my mood. I value helping others over helping myself and yet, I fear that I’m not meeting my own potential.
I trust my intuition and usually I can tell peoples motivations through conversation. I am good at ‘reading people’ some would say. I pick up on all aspects of conversation easily and they help me determine people’s motivations and intentions through interaction. I am unlikely to have ‘casual’ relationships. Whether it is with platonic, or intimate, I avoid relationships with people whom I feel are not in it for the long haul. I value depth in all my relationships so it’s not likely that I would pursue a friendship if I don’t see it as one that will be deep and lasting. When it comes to intimate relationships, I think my past relationships have failed because I didn’t truely feel that the relationships would last forever. I was only seeking the companionship. I have the ideal intimate relationship in my head – and I know what I am willing to compromise on and what I am not.
Through the Enneagram I’ve found that I am a type 6 wing 5. This says that I am driven by an innate sense that I have no firm foundation to my life. Nothing really solid to hold on to. This couldn’t be more true about me. I’ve taken in a way in the past that lead me to becoming too attached to my friends, almost dependant on them, and it has pushed some of them away. That’s why I understand when someone “needs a break” from me. Because I lack a basic trust in the universe and seek something I can hold on to and in the past it has been my friendships. It’s something I cannot do anymore. I thrive on the sense that there is usually more to any given situation that others let on. I have to learn to not let this sense control me though as I have done in the past. I am keenly aware of power dynamics in relationships. I can usually tell who has power, who wants power, who will use it and who will misuse it. Where others see the status quo I often see a balance or an imbalance.
A Final Thought
This raises the question: Who am I really? I want to get to know myself a lot better than I already do. To learn my motivations, my good and bad traits, things I can change to better myself and things I can’t change – my character flaws – that make me who I am. What do I want out of my life?
That is what I aim to find out.