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When Your Desire to Work Clashes With Your Mental Health

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What I have is not a virus. It does not have a duration. When I need to take a sick day, I am not contagious. I have symptoms, but they aren’t always visible.

This is my depression and my anxiety. Every day, my mind and my brain argue, collude or deceive, and I never know which one to believe. My mind tells my brain how to make my body behave, but my mind lies. It tells me I am afraid, so my brain speeds up my heart and makes my breathing shallow. My mind tells me I am failing, so my brain reduces my vision to a tunnel and fills my ears with static. My mind tells me I am in pain, so my brain sends daggers and fires to my joints, my back and my head.

I have had migraine headaches for many years. Some had acute physical triggers that were remedied with surgery for unique conditions. Lately, my headaches include migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches. Cluster headaches make me want to pluck my eye out of its socket. Most of my headaches are now preceded by anxiety.

Panic attacks exhaust me, weaken me, fatigue my muscles to the point of near-immobility. My appetite disappears. The crash after the panic evolves into a depressive state of listlessness and feeling lost.

I am currently on medications prescribed by my gynecologist because, until recently, I did not have a primary care physician and I still do not have a mental health care provider. I look forward to a time when I am being treated for my depression and my anxiety in a way that helps me function in public capably and productively. I don’t want to feel the need to take sick days from work for my mental health. I want to work, and I want to take care of mental health, and I don’t want the two pursuits to be at odds with one another.

Getty Images photo via manop1984

Originally published: March 8, 2018
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