When I finally picked up the phone and made the call, I got an answering machine. I waited for the beep, and said something that included the phrase “I need some help”. It was early spring, about 17 years ago.
I was sick. And despite a few bouts with the flu, I had never felt so bad. Physically, I felt like warm molasses inside. Heavy. Slow to move. Lacking energy.
Mentally, I was exhausted, and focused on the negative. I was especially dialed in to situations I couldn’t control and disasters that were unlikely to happen. I felt like I had a brick in my chest most of the time. Not one to cry often, I would tear up at the slightest provocation, whether it was a sad news report or a sentimental song. I was totally out of balance and I didn’t know what exactly my problem was.
It was scary. Especially because I couldn’t see how to get out.
Several sessions with the therapist I had called made things drastically better. I started to see the way out and progressed more quickly than I had anticipated. I learned that I was suffering from depression.
I also learned how to handle or avoid the situations that got me into that mess- unrealistic job expectations, failing to take care of myself, failing to live in accordance with my priorities. In short, I had been allowing other things and other people to control my life against my best interests and desires. A human can only take that for so long before they crack and break.
Months later, I would become strong enough to make some difficult decisions, create some new habits, restore proper balance to my life, and return to my self.
But what if I hadn’t made that initial phone call? What if I had kept making excuses or buying in to the stereotypes and stigmas of the time regarding mental health and depression?
Maybe it wasn’t so much excuses and stereotypes as it was me just not being willing to admit that I had allowed my situation to get as bad as it was.
I had “left it all on the field“ in my job as a teacher, only to end up feeling under-appreciated, disrespected as a human, and “dumped on” with an ever-increasing workload. It seems that in teaching, once you prove you can make the best of a bad situation, those in power make the situation worse because they know you’ll make do and handle it- just like you always do. At some point you must choose either to quit that game, or risk being pushed past your breaking point.
The combination of physical and mental fatigue brought on by my job and the feeling of being enslaved to the paycheck I was getting, really took a toll on me after awhile.
I was flying high at first. For many years, I loved being a teacher and everything else about life. But I was like a long distance runner who sprints the first 3 miles, uses too much energy, and suffers through the other 10 miles of the course.
After surviving for years in that state, I slid into a negative feedback loop, where exhaustion fueled my “Eeyore on steroids” outlook, which sapped what energy I had, which sent me back into exhaustion for another lap around.
Therapy sessions were critical for me in breaking that cycle and climbing out of my depressive hole. But, they weren’t the only things that helped. Another key was re-ordering my life to align with my priorities. So was starting an exercise routine and improving my diet.
I also visited a native hypnotherapist who asked me if I knew what my spirit animal was. I didn’t. He helped me to find out. If you don’t know yours, I recommend finding out- the information can be very useful.
Those that know me are aware that I dislike using the telephone- I’m more of a text and email guy. But that call to the therapist 17 years ago was one of the most important phone calls I ever made.
If anything you’ve read here sounds familiar or relatable, don’t hesitate to make your own call; to a friend, a professional, whoever. Ask for the help you need. You deserve it.