Cheshire Cat's Grin

Walking on the Moon, Part I

Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional. My frank discussion of my personal journey should not be construed as medical advice. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other medical concern, there is no substitute for qualified professional guidance.

The Blast-Off

It feels as if I’ve been on the Moon, and the landscape I’ve traversed may sound as foreign and unfamiliar to you as the Moon. I’ve been far, far away on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

In May, I blogged about my concerns that depression and anxiety were getting the better of me (“Getting Real”). It started when I was let go from a waitressing job in mid-May. The business had fallen off significantly at the small café where I was working. The owners felt they could no longer afford to employ me, especially since their sons were home from college for the summer and could work the busier times at no cost.

Then I applied for another waitressing job and was told I didn’t have enough experience. The owner made it sound as if the job requirements were far too sophisticated for a novice such as myself to absorb. Apparently my project management experience implementing multi-million dollar call centers was irrelevant.

As I write this I hear a bitter, frustrated person complaining, “Woe is me.” Yes, I was having a pity party.

I sensed the restaurant owner also felt the reason I gave for being let go was suspect. Some people have dark imaginations. Did she think something improper happened and the owner wanted to be rid of me without any pesky lawsuits? This perception disturbed me deeply.

It was about this time I completely fell apart. When it’s just depression, I see it for what it is, have my pity party, then push myself to keep doing what I need to do. But my issue was something much worse – extreme anxiety.

What does that look like for me? It’s unrelenting irritability with the ones I love the most. It’s continuous, free-floating anxiety, nausea, loss of appetite, inability to focus, withdrawal into my bed/cocoon, desire to dissociate from reality. It’s frequent fear and confusion, a painful fear of future so deep I’m not sure I want to live in that future.

And when it really got bad I began having frightening impulses. My temper expanded from the safe to the unsafe. My dark side wanted to confront a pathetic, toothless old homeless-looking man who skipped me in line at the Wal-Mart pharmacy. No, seriously, I wanted to pound his face into the concrete floor. But my authoritarian voice told me, If you even attempt to speak to him, this will escalate and you’ll be hauled out of here in handcuffs.

Later I couldn’t completely contain my rage when a car came speeding down our narrow street. I shook my fist at the driver and wanted to step in front of his car to force a confrontation. I chickened out at the last minute and am now glad I did because that can get you shot or cause a hit-and-run in Jacksonville.

By the end of May I was pretty freaked-out. These violent responses reminded me of my experiences when my first marriage was deteriorating and at its worst. Road rage, fantasies of running my car off the road at high speed and hitting a wall, inappropriate and unsafe confrontations were all part of my breakdown at the simultaneous end of both my marriage and my corporate career.

In a moment of clarity, I began to suspect I was experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With our continuing financial struggles and time running out for me to find a productive job, I went to The Women’s Center of Jacksonville to apply for counseling services. I knew that was my best shot at finding affordable therapy to help me overcome my issues so I’d be able to work.

To be continued…


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