I have been having multiple meltdowns every day since my car accident last week, on top of the disassociation, nightmares, and fear/worry over things that otherwise wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.
Classic case of PTSD, according to my therapist.
She has been checking on me daily. And, between her encouragement and the support of my supervisors at my (BRAND NEW) job, I am filing for short term disability. Just days after starting said brand new job.
This is causing a mental wreckage. I’m struggling with emotions like frustration, confusion, guilt, shame, and anger.
I have spent my entire life proud that I’ve never had my mental health impact my life seriously enough that I’ve felt the need to think of myself as “disabled.”
(I, in no way, have ever felt that someone who identifies as “disabled” is at all in the slightest “less than.” It is just something I’ve never identified as, myself.)
When I hit a rough spot, I put up another layer to my protective wall and I push on.
Because, disabled? No. I struggle, but I’ve never been disabled.
Part of my identity is that I am useful. That I am reliable. That I give my all. Part of my identity is that I am strong enough to push through anything.
All of a sudden, I am thrown into a situation where I am no longer able to feel like I am or am capable of those things. Because of the car that hit me last week, I have lost parts of my identity.
I don’t know who I am, anymore.
I was trying so hard. I tried to work this week. I went in, confident that I’d be able to show my worth to my new employer. To thrive. I tried to push through.
I didn’t expect to struggle. I tried to hide how much I was struggling.
I didn’t expect to find difficulty following along with the simplest tasks. I tried to pretend I was following along. Trusting that I’d catch up at a later time when I would be able to focus better.
I didn’t expect to have a panic attack when something went off script. I was in public. I tried to hold it in.
I didn’t expect to find myself sobbing in the bathroom because I couldn’t focus on a training video I was supposed to complete. I’d tried to hold it in. But I failed at trying.
I didn’t expect to ask for help, because I was so afraid of being considered a problem. I didn’t even know HOW to ask for help. The offers of help and the acceptance of help had to be dragged out of me.
I didn’t expect the relief when I finally let go and asked for and accepted help. I am not someone who needs help. I’ve GOT THIS. I am strong. I am a survivor. I can do this. But I can’t. I need help.
How do I get help? Navigating the process for requesting leave has been complicated. It’s been frustrating. It’s caused me to start crying while finally on the phone with someone, because maybe – finally – I can get this submitted and eventually approved.
In the past, I would take what I’d call “mental health days.” I’d use a few days of sick leave (or, in the case of when I spent more than a month in an outpatient mental health program, an entire years’ worth of sick leave + vacation time) when I had struggles with my mental health. Because my mental health was something for me to push through. It was a sickness. “I can push through being sick.”
But… it’s not sick. This isn’t something that is going to just go away with a few days of rest. This is more than that.
I hadn’t expected how hard it is to find myself in this position of having to look at my identity, and see how it is changing.
Who am I?
Who am I when I’m being vulnerable?
Who am I when I allow myself to hurt. To be in pain.
Who am I when I stop glossing over what happened to me?
Who will I be as I face my PTSD?
Who will I be at the end of this?