This started as an IG post. I wasn’t sure where I was going with it, so I just left it there, typed on my phone, posted and shared. And then the day just got worse. And then the week got worse.
It was recently World Mental Health Awareness Day, which is about as made-up a day as you can get, but also, it will be trending on the socials for a hot minute, and as good an excuse as any to write all this up, to try and make sense of whatever it is that I’m trying to work through right now.
I wrote about it already, buried in another post, but things started falling apart for me in July. There was no way to get help. I couldn’t even book an appointment with my therapist. My meds doctor was out and his assistant could offer little in the way in advice other than “try taking more of your meds.” Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. So I just stopped taking them all together. This isn’t a rejection of medication and renouncing ever taking them again, just that…when more makes things markedly worse, and there is nothing but radio silence with regards to getting additional advice, then the self-preservation instinct takes over and I just drew the conclusion that if more was worse, than less must be better.
Thankfully, I did not fall apart. The next month, my PMS which has now apparently morphed into the more severe version PMDD (hooray) wasn’t nearly as debilitating, but I still walked around under a cloud of “huh, maybe things would be better if I weren’t around…” for a week, just without uncontrollable crying. I reached out to my PCP and then also my OB/GYN, trying to describe what was happening without being too alarmist but also trying not to minimize what was happening.
Nothing like typing: “My PMS is making me feel like I want to die, like, literally, but also I’m ok, so…”
I’ve also put on a lot of weight over the past year, which has caused me to start snoring. Badly. I finally went to the doctor about THAT, and I have severe sleep apnea. I don’t know when the last time I had a good night’s sleep. My ADHD makes it hard for me to fall asleep. And now the sleep apnea makes it so the sleep I do get is a) shit, b) might kill me, and c) also keeps everyone else in the house up because it’s so fucking loud. But of course there is a shortage of CPAP machines (supply chain issues but also a recall so that’s fun) so I’m now waiting, waiting, waiting for the help I need to get some sleep.
None of the doctors have commented on my weight, even though my file now says OBESE on it. But what can they do? They can say, you should lose weight, but then what support can they, my healthcare providers offer me? A nutritionist? A chef to prepare my meals? A personal trainer who actually understands the fact that my knees and feet and ankles were shot long before I gained all this weight, a physical therapist who will help me rebuilt my core, so weak right now that I can’t walk down the stairs without fear of falling, but also because my ankles may just decide they are going to stop working…
And because I’m so tired, just the thought of doing 20min of yoga in the morning is daunting because I haven’t fucking slept, not really. And I know that I’m putting too much hope into the CPAP machine making it so that I no longer feel like I am barely hanging on.
I want someone to notice I’m not doing so well, but even if they did, what the fuck would happen? Take a day off? Adjust my meds? Tell me to hang in there and practice self-care?
Carey Price just entered the NHL/NHLPA voluntary player assistance program.1 Last season, Jonathan Drouin took a leave of absence from the team because, it was revealed later, of severe anxiety and insomnia. The breaking point for him came after he hadn’t slept for three straight days on a road trip. And Robin Lehner took to Twitter to call out NHL teams for…lax practices around medication meant as pain killers and sleep aids. These are hockey players, FYI. The first two play for my beloved Montreal Canadiens. The other is a goalie who has spoken out extensively about his own mental health struggles. While no doubt challenging, there were and are systems in place that were there to help them address their issues, get help, and get better. The NHL is apparently taking Lehner’s concerns seriously, and I hope that the conditions for players will keep improving.
Ted Lasso (a show about an American football coach who was hired to coach a British football team, a show so criminally good as to not even deserve to exist) has been dealing for the past two seasons with Ted’s mental health issues. Earlier this season, he had a panic attack while coaching on the sidelines, and recently a major one that left him immobile on the floor of his flat. But, this season the team had hired a therapist (an excellent one), and when Ted had his most recent panic attack, he was able to call her and she was there immediately to help Ted work through his issues. When it was “leaked” that Ted had in fact had a panic attack (and not a gastrointestinal issue as was previously reported), it allowed for a larger conversation on how we talk about mental health issues.
And while it’s great that we’re normalizing talking about mental health (and the fact that it’s getting all of this attention because it’s men talking about it is not lost on me), I want the true cost of mental health issues be discussed. These men, real and fictional, have at their disposal, not only the support of their team and teammates (which isn’t nothing and a huge shift in the culture at large) but access to resources to help them the moment they most needed it.
These men all were able to stand up and say, I need help, and they got the help they needed.
Most of us, we say we need help, and nothing happens. So we stay silent.
I want a 30-day voluntary assistance program. I want a therapist I can call and get help when I need it. I want to not have to spend 45min on the phone explaining and re-explaining myself when I need help and then be put on a wait list. I want to not have to worry about my job, my kids, my house while I get help. I want everything that these men are getting as we celebrate their bravery, while the rest of us are barely hanging on, with no resources that we can turn to.
And I want that for everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, whatever.
Without that, I want mental health stories, real and fictional that show not only the internal struggles but the real systemic barriers in place to prevent most of us from ever accessing the help we need. Not the Girl, Interrupted or the tragic narrative, but the very real struggles of someone trying to access resources and then failing. Of not just ridiculously falling apart but barely hanging on. THAT is the narrative around mental health I want to see – not the exploitative or aspirational but one that reflects the reality most of us are facing.
Now that we’re starting to talk about it, I want us to have the right conversations.
I need help. I need a CPAP, but I also need sleep therapy to undo more than 40 years of broken sleep practices. I need to lose weight, but I also I need physio for my knees and core muscles, along with help with food preparation and ADHD and eating. The needs outstrip the resources that are available to me, so to say I need help is to turn on the judgement of individual responsibility and resources, as I am upper-middle-class. I should join a gym, hire a personal trainer, join a meal-prep service, find a private therapist. More, more, more, more things I need to be doing on top of the things I have to do as a parent, an employee, a spouse.
I want to be able to pick up the phone, call one number, and get the help I need without begging, without judgement, without questioning. I want what these men got. I want my employer, my healthcare provider to show that they mean it when they say they are investing in “preventative” medicine. And I don’t want to only have access because of my job and socio-economic status.
I’m tired. I’m really, really tired. I want to go someplace where I get rest and support and proper care. But that won’t happen. I’m tired of writing these kinds of pieces and the only outcome (as good as it might be) is that someone feels less alone because now they know they aren’t the only person struggling. I want things to change. But I’m too tired to even start to know how.
I guess that’s the point, isn’t it.
1 I was called out on Twitter for not noting that Carey Price is Indigenous, which makes his choice to get help all the more important but also highlights the very real lack of any kind of reliable health care, let along mental health care, available to Indigenous populations in Canada and the USA. I am happy he is able to get the help he needs, as an Indigenous person, as a hockey player, as a human being. But the point still stands: when he needed the help, all he had to do was as. He worked hard for that privilege, but it shouldn’t take an all-star career in the NHL to be able to access proper mental health services..