Looking for feedback, please help!

M

Maunakea

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Joined
May 27, 2016
Messages
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I was recently fired from a job that I loved because my mental health issues kept me away from work too often. I am currently in the process of fighting for my job with my union, and have an arbitration hearing soon. I have prepared a written statement to help plead my case. It's not finished yet and it needs editing, but I wanted to post it on here to gain some feedback. It's fairly lengthy and might not be too pleasant to read. But please, if you can spare the time, help me out by reading it and telling me what you think. Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you very much.

I'm writing a statement because I know that I need to explain myself and my actions it's very hard for me to do. As my employers might be aware it's usually very difficult for me to speak about things like this without crying which is why I prepared a written statement instead. I hope that it will allow me to get across the things i should have been able to say a long time ago. I've been diagnosed with major depressive disorder with suicidal tendencies, and general anxiety disorder. I have suffered from these diseases since early childhood and have been receiving treatment since adolescence. It's difficult to explain what it's like living with these diseases to someone who does not know but I will try my best.

Depression is complicated, especially when speaking to its cause. Science is still trying to figure it out. But we do know that in addition to environmental causes, risk factors for depression include actual physical differences in the brains of people affected with it. People with depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus, and lower concentration of not only certian neurotransmitters such as seratonin, but also certian neurons themselves. So this means that the brain cells responsible for managing mood not only find it harder to send their signals, there are also less of them to recieve the signals. The lower levels of brain chemicals like seratonin appear to make it more difficult for new brain cells to form, and make the paths between them harder to cross. Depression medication helps to slowly increase levels of seratonin by stopping its reuptake. This means that less seratonin is destroyed before use, but does not mean more is produced. studys suggest that people with depression produce less seratonin than those without. But still, with the right combination of medications, levels can begin to balance. But the brain cells still need to form to send and recieve signals, and this takes time as well. It isnt as simple as an asprin, the effects of which can be felt immediately. Once you finally find the right medications and get to the right dosage, it can take months for levels to balance, and months again to regrow the required brain cells. Anxiety and other mental illnesses are thought to have similar causes, just different brain chemicals.

Finding the right medications is a trial all in its own. Since every brain is unique, medications that work well for some people may not work at all for others. There are many different medications for depression alone, even more when trying to treat other disorders too. Because of this, it can be extremely difficult to find the combination of medications that will actually help. It comes down to trial and error, and it is a slow process. In order to start feeling the effects of anti depressants, you have to work your way up to what is called the therapeutic dosage. You have to this slowly, over a course of months in small increments to allow a gradual shift in brain chemicals. A rapid shift can have very bad results. So imagine this; you get your new medicine. You spend a couple months working your way up to therapeutic dosage, then another few months there to see if it is working. It isnt. You then have to spend a few months weaning yourself back off that medication, only to start the process all over again with a new type. All you can do is hope that maybe this one will work. Maybe 3rd, 4th, 5th times the charm. On top of this, you have to deal with the side effects. Because of course, all medications have side effects. The side effects of most SSRIs, the most common type of anti depressant, can be grueling. They include but are not limited to;
Drowsiness
Nausea
Dry mouth
Insomnia
Diarrhea
Nervousness, agitation or restlessness
Dizziness
Sexual problems, such as reduced sexual desire or difficulty reaching orgasm or inability to maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
Headache
Blurred vision

In some cases, anti depressants can even cause an increase in suicidal behaviour, especially when doses are missed or when weaning off a medication.
Lets talk about a few of those side effects. Drowsiness and insomnia, nervousness, nausea and diarrhea, headaches. Not only are these some of the most felt side effects of anti depressants, they are also some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety. So in trying to make depression better, we have to suffer through worsened symptoms during treatment. So often the medication that is trying to help just makes it worse. Which is why its so hard to find the right medications and the right dosage. The balance where an increase in mood is worth the side effects. Its a difficult balance to achieve, and a dangerous one. But we have to try.

Just as depression and anxiety can have actual physical causes, they too have actual symptoms. The brain chemicals out of balance are responsible for many bodily functions. Seratonin regulates mood, but is also responsible for regulating sleep, appetite and pain. People with anxiety and/or depression have been shown to have consistent increased levels of a stress horomone called CRH. This is responsible for the adrenal response in the body, causing spikes in heart rate and blood pressure as it triggers the bodys fight or flight response. Discounting the mental symptoms, the physical symptoms of depression include;
Fatigue or exhaustion
Insomnia or hypersomnia
Physical pain, aches
Changes in appetite
Psychomotor empairment

The physical symptoms of anxiety include;
Stomach pain, nausea and digestive issues
Headaches
Insomnia
Weakness and fatigue
Sweating or chills
Shaking
Muscle tension and pain
Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Extreme anxiety, or panic attacks, can cause symptoms that are commonly mistaken for a heart attack such as;
Heart palpitations
Tingling and numbness
Chest pain
Difficulty breathing
Dizzyness

I want to elaborate on a few of these symptoms, starting with fatigue. The word fatigue doesnt even come close to describing the levels of exhaustion that come with mental illness. I dont know of a word that can. Mentally, emotionally and physically drained to the limits. This is a kind of fatigue that neither rest or sleep alleviate. It is constant. Not even a full nights good sleep can relieve the tiredness. And a full night's rest can difficult to achieve. Nothing i can say will properly describe the exhaustion that comes from constantly waging a war inside your mind. Even when you havent physically exerted yourself, when you've taken all the necessary steps for care and are well rested, you are exhausted beyond belief. It is so frustrating because you feel like you have no reason to be this tired, but you are. The medications often make it worse. And nothing you do fixes it.
Another key symptom is the changes in appetite, nausea, stomach pains and digestive issues. Its a knot in your stomach, that feeling of dread. It makes you physically ill, throwing up. It causes indigestion, dirreaha, and heart burn. You can feel the pain of your stomach clenching, turning, bubbling. It becomes very difficult to eat, even when you know you are hungry. It hurts to eat. Sometimes the lack of appetite makes it so that you dont even feel the hunger. Not the growling tummy, nothing. No food makes your mouth water, nothing is appetizing. For days you might not feel the desire to eat. But still you know you have to, so you try. A few bites of your favourite food ever, and it turns disgusting in your mouth. Physically repulsive. You feel that if you eat any more you will start gagging and throw it back up. The medications often make it worse. And nothing you do fixes it.
The final symptom i want to touch on is pain. Actual, physical pain. Many people dont realize that this is a symptom of depression and anxiety. Seratonin is responsible for pain relief. Dont produce enough, and you get no relief. It aches all over, like the aches you get when you have a bad flu. But all the time. In additon to that, and the stomach pains, stress causes muscles in the body to clench and tighten. You hold stress in your shoulders, back, jaw and neck. When anxiety causes a prolonged increase in stress hormones, these muscles clench and stay clenched. This causes muscle pains, fatigue, and reduced blood flow. Headaches, muscle spasms and pain. Crying too causes muscle cramping, sinus congestion and pain and tension headaches. Headaches so bad it feels as though your head will explode. The medications often make it worse. And nothing you do fixes it.

All of these symptoms, combined with the side effects of medications, are bad enough. But honestly they pale in comparison to the symptoms that go unseen. Being inside the mind of someone with depression and anxiety is a very dark, ugly, confusing and terrifying place to be. These symptoms are the hardest to explain. It starts with sadness, but the word cannot explain the depth and profoundness of sadness a person with depression endures. It can come up slowly, building and building until you eventually burst. Or it can come on sudden and hit you like a truck. Sometimes you know why, an incident or memory, something sets it off. But the response is not proportionate to the cause. An emotional video, a sad song, a bad social encounter. Sometimes you have no idea why. You can be feeling just fine, having a great day, everything going well, and suddenly you are thrown into the darkest depths of despair. Im talking full on bawling your eyes out sobbing hysterically, and sometimes you dont know why. I cant tell you what thats like. Sometimes it is more subtle, a dull ache instead of a sharp pain. Like a cloud, looming over you. You dont cry, and you can mostly function. Sometimes you can even ignore it. But its there, weighing on you, dragging you down. Sometimes its not so much sadness, but emptyness. You feel nothing. Not good, not bad, just nothing. Nothing brings you happiness. Not your favourite food, book, movie, activity, animal or person. Nothing. You feel like a shell, a ghost. Nothing has meaning and it can be so difficult to force yourself to do the things you usually enjoy because you know it will bring you nothing. Some medications have this as the goal. You cant feel sad if you cant feel anything. That, to me, is worse than the sadness. Not being able to find any joy, or to feel anger. No excitement or surprise, not even fear. Just nothing, a void. It is hopelessness. You feel like nothing will ever change, like you will never get better. Medication after medication has failed, you've fought with everything you have left, and nothing is better. Some people never get better, and you start to lose hope that you ever will. You start to feel like there isnt even a point in trying. Like you should just give up, give in. Let it swallow you whole and devour you from the inside. You feel worthless, like a failure. Like you should be better than this, but you arent. The guilt worsens when it becomes harder to function, to do the simple things other people seem to be able to do with ease. Self loathing, hatred turned inwards. Feeling so frustrated with yourself because you feel like you should be doing better, you should able to fix this. Just toughen up, deal with it. It gets hard to deal with when your goal is just functioning. Not living, enjoying or thriving, but just simply functioning at minimum required levels. And you cant even manage to do that right. You feel like a burden, a failure, a drain on the people around you. Like everyone would be better off if you weren't around. Therein comes the thoughts of suicide and self harm. Like you'd be doing the world a favour. I cant tell you how many times ive felt this way.
 
OCDguy

OCDguy

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 13, 2016
Messages
819
I cant tell you what thats like.

Sometimes it is more subtle, a dull ache instead of a sharp pain. Like a cloud, looming over you. You dont cry, and you can mostly function. Sometimes you can even ignore it. But its there, weighing on you, dragging you down. Sometimes its not so much sadness, but emptyness. You feel nothing. Not good, not bad, just nothing. Nothing brings you happiness. Not your favourite food, book, movie, activity, animal or person. Nothing. You feel like a shell, a ghost. Nothing has meaning and it can be so difficult to force yourself to do the things you usually enjoy because you know it will bring you nothing. Some medications have this as the goal. You cant feel sad if you cant feel anything. That, to me, is worse than the sadness. Not being able to find any joy, or to feel anger. No excitement or surprise, not even fear. Just nothing, a void. It is hopelessness. You feel like nothing will ever change, like you will never get better. Medication after medication has failed, you've fought with everything you have left, and nothing is better. Some people never get better, and you start to lose hope that you ever will. You start to feel like there isnt even a point in trying. Like you should just give up, give in. Let it swallow you whole and devour you from the inside. You feel worthless, like a failure. Like you should be better than this, but you arent. The guilt worsens when it becomes harder to function, to do the simple things other people seem to be able to do with ease. Self loathing, hatred turned inwards. Feeling so frustrated with yourself because you feel like you should be doing better, you should able to fix this. Just toughen up, deal with it. It gets hard to deal with when your goal is just functioning. Not living, enjoying or thriving, but just simply functioning at minimum required levels. And you cant even manage to do that right. You feel like a burden, a failure, a drain on the people around you. Like everyone would be better off if you weren't around. Therein comes the thoughts of suicide and self harm. Like you'd be doing the world a favour. I cant tell you how many times ive felt this way.
I would personally think about rephrasing the sentence that I have made bold and underlined, as you do go on to describe it quite well (in my mind). A suggestion might be to say something similar to "I find it hard to describe, but I will try". If I was an employer, I think I would be thinking that someone with all this going on, should have mentioned it (perhaps you have mentioned it to your employer, or if you hadn't previously, perhaps there were reasons for it that you should go into).

On a different note, you mentioned the feeling of being under a cloud, and nothing feeling worthwhile, and being a burden onto others. Just a thought, when you are feeling this way, take away the expectation (just focus on routines and getting through the day, as this mood will soon pass) and focus on your independence, and how you generally manage without leaning on others. Basically ground yourself, and reassure yourself that this cloud is just a nasty mood, and not a reflection of your character and worth ;)
 
J

JCPraha

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 27, 2018
Messages
310
It is well written and everything you said is very true regarding depression and its treatment. I fully understand it from my personal experience with the disease. I am not so sure others who have no personal experience with the disease will really comprehend it. It seems more like a dissertation on depression rather than an explanation of how the disease has impacted your own behavior vis a vis work.
 

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