The Only Road to Respite

By June 8, 2017Blog

The first time I sought out a professional respite, a brief moment flashed by where I let out a genuine sigh of relief. After months of insomnia, I was fighting off sleep during work hours, often dosing off where I stood. There was no longer a struggle for a balance between keeping myself together, and falling into rapid cycles of mania and depression. At that point, I was holding on by a thread for my life. The morning that thread snapped, I walked into work at 4a. I realized I could no longer keep my composure and fight the rising madness I tightly kept contained inside. At 6a, I walked out of my job, called a friend, and asked for a ride to the ER. I was finally ok with giving in and seeking what I thought was going to be a period of rest and relief from my difficult and unmanageable life.

I knew from friends that the fastest way into an inpatient program was through the ER. All I had to do was say the magic words. Even though I knew I wasn’t at the point of taking my own life, it didn’t take the doctor long to coax the words out of me. It felt almost as if it was his goal. Either way, it was done. And in return I was given a very, very heavy dose of an antipsychotic. This was the first red flag for me. I did not present any psychotic attributes when I arrived at the ER. In fact, I was so worn down by my disease, I was quite docile. When I started to come around, my friend was gone and I had a new one. A security guard sitting in a chair outside of my ER room facing me. I found it odd that the security was so tight in the ER. Then I realized he was there to watch me.

The rest of the night was a blur. An ambulance ride. Continued doses of antipsychotics to the point I could not physically function, let alone psychologically grasp what it was I submitted myself to. Nurses coming in throughout the night, physically sitting me up and shoving a pen in my hand urging me to sign papers I was not able to read. The idea of respite could never have been further from my reality than it was at that moment.

By morning, I knew. I knew I was in a nightmare, not a safe haven. I started to refuse meds and I fought minute after minute with whoever I had to in order to demand my release. I pleaded that I had made a mistake by self-admitting and that I felt fine. Magically, by late afternoon I was released into trusted care. It took weeks to physically and psychologically recover just from the massive amounts of unwarranted meds they gave me. But the worst part was realizing there was no such thing as the respite I needed, that I had lost my job from walking out on it, and I was in a significantly worse state than I had been only 48 prior to that moment. I had never been so terrified to live.

A couple of years later I spent another horrifying stint of time in that same environment, that time not so voluntary. The results were exponentially worse compared to that first experience. But having gone through all of this, I learned the very hard way that respite care was not going to be something that somebody offered me, or something that a system lovingly handed over to me. I knew, without a doubt, that I had to create my own respite.

So I changed my standards and expectations as to what respite looked like for me. I had to find a way to redesign my concept of relief, and in that, erase the grandiose visions I had of an assisted environment that truly wanted to help me get better. I began to create pockets of relief within my schedule. Time strictly set aside so I knew that I could look forward to it, depend on it, and escape from whatever it was I was stuck in. And I didn’t only set these times up for when things were horrible. By weaving them into my weekly schedule, they were always there to rely on during bad and good times.

First I had to define what relief and respite meant for me. I first identified that in order to find true relief and relaxation and freedom from my irrational mind, it could only could exist without a mobile phone in hand or laptop staring back at me. Around this golden rule, I found two main forms of respite. For years I have carved out a minimum of one afternoon a week where I go to the movies by myself. And during times of extreme stress, it increases to two to three times a week. To me, movies are magic. They challenge my views on life, ignite creative thinking, and allow me to explore feelings I can’t find in my life. I often receive negative comments about going to the movies alone every week. But when you truly find a way calm an irrational mind, in a healthy way, why wouldn’t you indulge yourself? It is absolutely the most motivating part of my week when my mind is interacting with this ultimate innovative creation.

The other ideal form of relief I have worked into my schedule is a daily workout. When I’m running or lifting weights, it is hard to concentrate on anything else but my physical body. Again, no phone, so I am disconnected from the world of distractions. It is simply my body and my music. Everything else fades away. I put working out as the first thing on my agenda every day, so I know I will be waking to a physical task, instead of an emotional one. No mess of work emails, or social media alerts, or text messages. It makes waking up not so terrifying anymore.

People may think it’s silly that I love movies so much, or that I overdo it at the gym. But to me, these things save my life week after week. No matter the day or week I’m having, I don’t falter on these built-in respites. I depend on them. While they do stir up my addictive behavior, its fine with me. If I’m going to be addicted to something, I would rather it be something that gives me a positive feeling. Being able to control my own respite has given me one more tool I can use to manage my illness. These activities have become permanent fixtures in my life, where nothing else is guaranteed.

2 Comments

  • Regina B says:

    No one person, group, or organization can claim to be the ultimate authority over all other persons who are affected by symptoms of mental illness. It is characteristic and in our nature as human beings to classify, sort, and place things, ideas, and even people into certain boxes. It is how we make sense of the the world around us, especially in an effort to understand something we have lack of knowledge of. We may experience common things and share similar traits yet each individual is a diverse, complex, and unique being. We have different needs and respond accordingly, as to what those needs might be.

    I am glad you found something that works for you. This helps me understand that ultimately, I am the expert on the subject of me and what those needs are. Only I know best what works best for me. Searching for answers and relief from symptoms and a chronically stressful life through institutions and systems in the past have sorely disappointed, often leaving new wounds for healing.

    Your sharing helped remind me of what did not work for me. With new insight, I am reframing that search for respite.

  • Jess says:

    Sean thank u for writing that my brother mike (tall lanky kid who boxes lol) no bit u do know him sent me this link because I am going thru getting my 2nd diagnosis ( the first was 6 maybe 7 years ago ) and I know they are going to want me take a ton of meds and reading this u inspired me and gave me hope that I can over come all the fears and quirks I have but is it odd that I’m scared? I don’t know if this is where I should write this stuff sorry if it isn’t…. I’m in my super lows lately just had my 3rd little boy and I feel like my world is falling apart

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