So, I'm in therapy. I know, I know, who isn't... Like I said to my friend S. some time ago everyone I know is in therapy and if they aren't they probably should be. I had plans to do therapy, just not now. I thought I'd go and do it later, some day in the future, when I could afford it financially and psychologically, as a sort of psycho-hygienic measure. To work on some stuff, reopen a couple of old wounds, rub a little salt in them, let them properly heal and reemerge as this awesome new and improved me - more zen, more together, more perfect. Hm... so that didn't go over too well with the universe.
A bit more than three months ago my dad died. Quite suddenly. We had a difficult relationship, and he definitely wasn't a young father, I did get to say goodbye - but, no surprise, losing him struck me hard. I lost my dad. I grew up. It wasn't pretty. But I'm a trooper so after a bit of crying I buckled up and organised my wedding in 5 weeks (with a lot of help from our friends) and got married within two months of my father's death. (Or fake-married, as I sometimes quite lovingly call the joke of a civil union we get to have here.) We had an amazing wedding party, burlesque/20ies style, we loved it, everyone else loved it and I was perfectly fine. Not. About four days after the party I cracked. And I really mean cracked! I felt I was losing my mind - hell, I still feel like that today. I was exhausted and crying all the time... and exhausted, and crying. It took me forever to get up in the morning, another lifetime to get out of the house, and I remember one day where I actually sat in my parked car in front of the office building, staring at a billboard in front of me for five minutes, before I could muster up the strength to get out of the car and into work. It wasn't pretty.
My wife and a couple of my friends must've realised that I was a bit loopy because they kept talking to me about burn out, depression, grief and taking time off. My dad had been depressed all his life, I'd seen burn out in my wife, then girlfriend, about half a year earlier, and I have a bunch of friends who've been/are in therapy for burn out and various other mental health issues. I know their troubles, and suddenly confronted by being told "you have a problem" I recognised myself in them. I finally began to see the rat race I was in. I began to see the bigger picture which was: I'm in a really bad place and I'm only going to make myself worse. Ironically, I also began to see the positive side of it. If I actually had something, if what was happening to me had a name and a form of treatment, then maybe what I've been going through isn't me failing at everything but instead me demanding too much. Maybe I wasn't a loser after all but only failing in the face of my own expectations?
So I started therapy. I quit all of my jobs (I was working as a freelancer). I registered as unemployed and am receiving unemployment benefits. It made me feel awful about myself, but now I see it as this amazing chance that allows me to become healthy again. Of course, half the time I still feel like a loser only now I'm one of those losers who is unemployed, but then I remember how I sat in my car staring at that billboard for what seemed like forever and I just know I wouldn't make it out of the car and up the stairs to the office this time. Hell, these days I sometimes don't even make it out of the apartment! It helps that my family doctor has put me on sick leave two weeks ago until next week when I'll be seeing a psychiatrist who is supposed to officially give my illness a name and hopefully put me on an extended sick leave (and hopefully not on antidepressants).
Since mental health issues are still mostly a taboo, be it burn out, depression or something other, I'd like to point you to this amazing blog post by Beth Hommel (assistant to one Ms Amanda Palmer btw.) which made me feel both understood myself and understanding my wife better (she showed me the blog and wrote about her own experience with it here). And I can only encourage you to (continue to) speak up about mental health issues, be it on your blog, in real life or in one of those status updates which have been becoming quite popular on facebook.