During my first two years living entirely alone I disconnected from a lot of people around me. For many different reasons, not all of them personal. I found my time fully consumed. Between stress, work, and being a dad, by the time I got a moment to breathe it was all I could do to muster the rest of my strength just existing. Struggling to keep my PTSD in check, work was all the social interaction I could bare.
This was a very lonely and dark time. I was diving deep into my mind. Trying to understand. Distancing myself from others so as not to project my pain. I attempted therapy of many kinds, as well as a lot of personal activities that I tried out for myself, derived from my personality. Things such as; playing games, reading about history, researching topics. This is where I found I loved reading and learning about investing in stocks and other markets. I discovered a fondness for disc-golf, being a sport that was very casual, at your own pace, I could do it alone or with others, and it got me outside and into the sun. I discovered aroma therapy made a big impact on my ability to cope. I think researching and studying kept my busy mind at ease, disc-golf gave me something to strive to get better at, as well as, something I could visually track progression. So that everything in my life didn’t feel like it was constantly two steps forward and five backwards, which is how mental health can feel a lot of the time. Aroma therapy played into a counter mechanism to one of my triggers, that being certain smells.
However, I was withdrawing from society, from friends, family, and from the things I loved. Because to be honest, I felt no love. I had no emotion in me. Depression and PTSD were draining all the hormones from my body. Exhausting it. Depleting it. My body was always alternating from extreme emotions to complete and utter numbness. Like crying so much in a single day, you eventually run out of tears. That is what emotional exhaustion feels like. I had no more emotions to express. I wanted to stop feeling altogether.
I was no longer able to perform redundant task such as going shopping for groceries, shopping for myself, social activities, or even activities alone. Pacing around my apartment. Checking the windows for people outside. The peep hole for every noise outside the door. Many restless nights wide awake, feeling as though someone was there. Someone was coming. My dreams became heavy and dark. My mind creating entire scenarios so realistic, I wasn’t even sure if it was a dream. Even when I awoke, it was unclear if I had just dreamt, because it was so realistic, I thought it must be a sign. I had seen death. I had witness pain. In that pain, my mind drew very vivid sensations. Dreams of me killing and fighting. Dreams of me dying, being stabbed to death repeatedly, or shot. I would awake in shock and panic. Adrenaline, sweat, chills, feeling as though I had just actually died. One morning, I really thought I had. I awoke from a terrible nightmare, and felt like I no longer had a soul inside me. My spirit had moved on, and left behind all its pain in a lifeless body.
It is hard to see your progress. During times such as these. It seems as though you’re reaching for anything; hope, faith, courage, motivation, love, connection, anything to save you from the sorrow. My best advice is to focus on the little things each day. They will not seem to work, or help. You will be frustrated and discouraged. For as I keep saying, it is a long road through mental health. It is about slow, steady progress each and every single day. Just get through today. “One more day”, I kept telling myself. All that matters at the end of each of those days, is that you did not give up. Sometimes you will have to just give in, and give way to your feelings and emotions, others, you will have to find time to also fight hard against your mind. There will be scenarios that will require a strong sense of restraint, courage, and discipline. It is okay to do nothing, at times. But you cannot sit and do nothing forever. Not if you want to see this through. You cannot give way to your emotions entirely, if you want to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, I was not without support. There have been so many different individual people that have come into my life that have made such an impact on my growth. I think it’s important, if you feel the need, to go outside of your close friends and family. They can be too biased, and that clouds their perspective. I met a lot of new people that I chose to open up to, because I needed to open up to someone. Not everyone responded well. Not everyone cared. Not everyone was in a place to care. But the ones who did, and have, I am forever grateful. I was not always kind to those who treated me in that regard either. I can blame it on my mental health, it was the cause after all, but it doesn’t make it ok.
Regardless, don’t remove yourself from the world entirely. That can be a dark, dangerous, and lonely path. A decision people struggle recovering from. Speak up to a friend, a family member, or even an acquaintance. It feels good to tell someone, it is the only way to let it go. To openly acknowledge your pain, your faults, your trauma. Try new things. It doesn’t have to be the “5 Steps to Grounding” from the internet. It doesn’t have to be therapy. The key to healing, is finding the strength and courage to do what you know needs to be done, in order for you as an individual unique being on this planet, to heal.
The world will only be okay with mental health, if it’s normalized. And it will only be normalized by those affected by it.