The Elephant in the Room


CW: Depression, anxiety, bullying, profanity

 

On August 11th I woke up in the morning pretty pleased with my life.  Twenty six days earlier I had won a beauty pageant, I had a career I loved, a loving husband and easy, stress-free, love filled marriage, I was dropping my grandmother and baby cousin back at the airport after a wonderful (and busy) visit, and I had a fit modelling gig that afternoon.  I loved everything about my life.

 

Then, the unthinkable happened.  While I was wearing a beautiful dress I was putting my shoes on and I lost my balance and I fell.  I looked at the woman who was facilitating the fitting and calm as could be i said, “I think I just broke my ankle”.  

 

The next 24 hours passed in a blur of pain, fear and uncertainty.  

 

Post surgery, I had strict orders from my doctor to not put even an ounce of weight on my newly enhanced ankle.  I was on strict bedrest for 6 weeks.  For those of you who know me in real life, you know how busy I keep.  I have dozens of hobbies and activities and a very full social calendar.  If you want to make plans with me, my schedule is booked six weeks in advance.  What was I going to do flat on my back for 6 weeks?  I was a busy stylist, who would take care of my clients? Would they wait for me? How was I going to pay my bills? Beyond the pain and exhaustion I had stress and worry.  

 

Full disclosure, I suffer from mental illness.  I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2009.  When the anxiety disorder (or stress, or pain, or life in general) ramps up, it can put me into adrenal fatigue.  Adrenal fatigue leads to depression.   Now, usually I have a series of self-care techniques and coping mechanisms that I can use to keep the anxiety and depression at bay.  I was medicated for a while when I was first diagnosed but after several medications and none of them working for me and my life, I turned to a therapist who specialized in cognitive behavioural therapy and learned the aforementioned techniques and mechanisms.  Combined with learning and recognizing my triggers and a rescue medication as a last resort, I was living as symptom-free as someone with my diagnosis can be.  

 

During my 6 weeks of recuperation, as I mentioned above, I rapidly spiralled through stress, worry, boredom, fatigue and anxiety, all heavily peppered with pain.  Every single one of my self-care techniques were out of my grasp. The simplest of the routines in my life that keep me grounded were taken from me.  All of my little touchstones that I use to keep my head above water were erased from my ability. Not only were they erased but I was given cement shoes and the water was getting rough.  I would literally lie in bed all day and cry.  Everything I had worked so hard for, was draining away from me: my career was suffering, my marriage was stressed, my mental health was dangerously fragile.

 

via GIPHY

I was pretty low.

 

In my lowest moments the thing I focused on as my “light at the end of the tunnel” was the great things that were waiting for me when I was recuperated. I had already RSVPed to my first official appearance as Miss Fuller Woman Canada.  It was scheduled for ten days after my follow up appointment with my surgeon.  I couldn’t wait to walk into that ballroom, strong and radiant.  At my appointment I was dealt another blow.  I was confined to my cast for another 6 weeks and my crutches for another 3.  I was going to hobble into the Body Confidence Canada Awards on crutches.  I couldn’t even make my triumphant return with the poise I wanted.  My heart felt like it it was one more blow from shattering to a million pieces.  

 

While at the awards, a woman I know who made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t allowed in her clique for whatever her reasons, was exceedingly rude to me.  Fun fact, she was at the business where I broke my ankle and was rude to me then too, as I was wheeled by her on an office chair because my ankle was broken in 3 places and I was in real medical distress.  I normally wouldn’t let someone’s childish behaviour bother me, but she approached my group several times and would lean across me or beside my chair to engage the other women.  Like I get it.  You don’t like me.  But her disgusting level of manners really bothered me.  I’ve absolutely been polite and said “hi, how are you” to people I didn’t particularly like.  I’ve sat at a dinner table with people I’ve actively disliked and managed to carry on polite and engaging conversation.  I’ve been accused of being “fake” because of that, but let’s be real, it’s just good manners. I’m not pretending to be their bestie.  But I digress.  She annoyed me and snubbed me and as I found out, had been actively kicking me while I was down.

I found out from several very trusted sources that this woman literally tears me to ribbons to anyone who will listen.  I’ll repeat that while I was healing from a life changing injury, I had someone maliciously building obstacles in my way.  She can claim that she didn't know about my injury EXCEPT THAT SHE WAS THERE.  That’s what one would call a “dick move”.

 

With my fragile mental health, my husband was worried that this news would tip me fully into the depression I was fighting so hard to eschew.  Luckily anger is a fuel I am used to burning.  I’ve dealt with worse bullies than her.  I resolved to not let her bullshit keep me down. 

This broken ankle has taken a lot from me.  My career, my financial stability, my “life”, my independence.  But it gave me an opportunity not afforded to many.  It gave me time.  I started this blog, I got through most of my “to read” pile, and I made it through a major depressive episode through sheer strength of will.

I’m starting to feel lighter.  With every small independence regained, routine set and task completed one more length of chain falls from my body.  With every step I take unassisted the waters calm a little more.

 

Depression and anxiety are diseases.  The people who suffer from these afflictions, and others like them, fight an unseen battle every. damn. day.  and unlike people who suffer from physical diseases they also deal with constant belittlement and ridicule from the outside world. Just as hospitals took smoking out of their halls because sick people need clean air to heal, mentally ill people need safe spaces to unpack, let go of and just rest from the invisible burdens we bear.   Left untreated, mental illness can be as fatal as any cancer. You are not alone.


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