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Mental Health

San Francisco, 2003 or 2004?

Most people don’t talk about needing help when it comes to mental health. There is a negative connotation associated with mental illness, as if it is their own fault for being that way. They just need to “stop being sad” or “stop getting angry.” It simply doesn’t work that way.

Most people don’t question taking medicine for colds. You get sick, you take some medicine. Pretty standard. When someone has depression or anxiety (or any other mental illness), it’s suddenly just the person just being emo and they don’t need medicine because they are making themselves that way.

This reaction is why most people don’t discuss and/or seek help for mental issues. They have to do it in secret, or pretend nothing is wrong. They end up blaming themselves for being that way because society tells us we are just prone to hyperbole, and that nothing is medically wrong with us. I’m sure I’ll face these types of comments, but this post isn’t for them. This post is for people who need help, whether they know it or not. My goal is to bring awareness and make people feel okay about asking for and seeking help. You are not alone.

Are there people who are hypochondriacs? Sure. Are there people who are just being emo? Sure. Are there people who can change without the aid of medication? Of course. There are also people who genuinely need medical help.

To say I was a choleric person is an understatement. I have always had a bad temper. As an infant I would throw myself on the ground and kick people (with my corrective boot) in the shins if they got too close. I have been known to punch holes in walls and break things. I used to cut my arms because it was easier to deal with physical pain rather than mental pain. I basically had no coping mechanisms to speak of. It is embarrassing to admit that I used to self-harm, but I’m happy to report that I haven’t cut myself in 8 years.

I was constantly mad at the world. I had no patience and became annoyed very easily. It took very little to set me off. My adrenaline sparked at the drop of a hat and pumped for hours at a time. It was normal for me to experience adrenaline rushes that lasted for 4-5 hours straight. My body shook uncontrollably, I was cold, and I couldn’t articulate. When I tried to speak, it sounded like I was about to cry. It wasn’t because I was about to cry, it was because I was shaking with uncontrollable rage.

It got so ridiculous that these adrenaline rushes would trigger at just the thought of an action. If someone cut in line, just thinking about saying something to them would trigger it. I wouldn’t say anything, but thinking about the possibility would cause the episode. It definitely became more severe with age.

I used to have some pretty bad road rage too. I could go into all of the things I did when it came to driving, but I’ll save you the time and just say that I was a jerk. I absolutely hated driving anywhere, and it always became a source of contention.

I never really gave much thought to my rage or adrenaline issues, I just thought that’s who I was. My wife kept insisting that I bring these issues up with my doctor, but I always resisted. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me, so why should I bother bringing it up? I wasn’t sick, I was just being normal, and if there was something wrong with me, medicine wouldn’t do anything. I was one of those people who didn’t think medication could actually do anything to treat my rage. 

Since I wouldn’t see anyone about it, other options were presented to me, like breathing. It seems simple right? I wouldn’t do it. Did I mention I’m a really stubborn person? I knew it would make my wife happy by trying the breathing exercises, but I wouldn’t do it. I physically couldn’t do it. It was like my brain was telling me no. I could avoid a fight if I just breathed, but I still wouldn’t. Just stop being stubborn, right? Well, I couldn’t.

Begrudgingly I brought these issues up with my former PCP (primary care physician), but I didn’t think it would help. I basically only did it because my wife insisted. He brushed them off saying it was normal. I felt vindicated. See? I knew there was nothing wrong with me. I did my duty by asking, so now I could continue being “normal.”

More time passed and more tantrums ensued. It was business as usual. Then I had kids. With the added stress of raising two kids, my wife once again asked me to seek some help, so I spoke to my new PCP. The time for being stubborn and selfish was over, I had my kids to think about. Did I think there was something wrong with me? No. Did I expect it to help? Not really, but there was a possibility that it could.

Last year I was prescribed Zoloft, not for depression, but for anxiety. Remember the commercial with the sad little blob and the rain cloud? Yeah, that one. I was dubious. I didn’t think it would do anything, but it would make my wife happy.

The effects weren’t immediate, obviously, but holy cow. It was like I was a different person. I no longer experienced those crazy adrenaline rushes, which I’m guessing led to lot of the other problems I was experiencing. The road rage was gone, completely gone. I didn’t hate driving anymore, which led to fewer arguments and more family outings. Thinking about confrontation didn’t set me off. I was more patient and didn’t get annoyed or frustrated as easily. I’m not constantly mad. I’m more open and playful with my kids. I’m more calm and collected when something does happen. I no longer punch walls or break things.

I was a new person, a better person.

It doesn’t make me immune to annoyance or frustration, but I can deal with them much more easily. I find myself actually taking the time to breathe, and in turn, I try to get my son to breathe when he gets upset.

I never wanted to be medicated and I never believed it would help, but when I miss a dose, it becomes very obvious. I get annoyed and frustrated much more easily. I get overwhelmed and reach the “screw it” stage where I just want to quit. I lash out and don’t take the time to think of a calm solution.

It really makes me wonder what my life would have been like had I been treated at an earlier age. Would I have more friends? Would my relationships with friends and family be different? Would people perceive me differently? I always heard that people thought I was mean, or a prick. I never understood why. I just thought it was because I was shy and quiet. So many of my paths in life could have been different without all of the hate and anger.

Everyone is different, so what worked for me might not work for someone else, and vice versa. Some people might not even need medication, but it was pretty clear that I wasn’t going to change without it.

Some people still might not believe in the effectiveness of medication. What if it is just a placebo? Does it really matter? I needed help and I got it. My goal was to reduce anxiety and anger, and I achieved that.

Maybe this post will help some people or maybe it will bring me some hate mail, either way, there it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Replies to “Mental Health”
  1. Thanks, man. I can relate 100%. I wish more people would allow themselves to seek help for mental health issues. I wish society would encourage good mental hygiene in the same way it does physical hygiene.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I too, have had similar issues with rage, anxiety, and depression. Since we don’t talk about mental health, there is a lot of misconceptions about what the symptoms are. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope it helps others to seek help when they need it.

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