Apologies all around, it has been forever since I posted last. A lot has happened in the last few months, which made me a little lax on the updates. When I last wrote, I had called in sick from my job because I couldn't cope with the ridiculous hours and bad working conditions. I took two weeks off to get some breathing room, then went back to work. This lasted for one day, after which I realized I just couldn't do it anymore. It was a hard decision because I loved my work, my patients and my coworkers. However, the hours and the amount of patients, combined with the lack of supervision proved to be too much for me. I told my boss I wouldn't be able to work under this conditions anymore. My boss told me there was no option to temporarily work part-time, because that would be bad for patient care. I'd say a doctor working part-time is better than having no doctor at all, but apparently I don't get it.
I was referred to the company's occupational physician. She bluntly told me that I was feeling burnt-out because I'm just completely unfit for the job. Also, according to her, my bouts of uncontrolled crying, panic attacks and insomnia were caused by me being unfit for the job. According to her, since the other doctors aren't calling in sick en masse, I'm the problem. She explained that I didn't get these mental health issues because the job is unreasonably heavy, but because I'm not strong enough for the job. Then she told me that because of this, I was not considered to be sick, therefore could no longer be on sick leave. She said it would be best for me to just quit my job. I was perplexed by this. In retrospect, I'm very angry about how this conversation turned out, but in the middle of my burn-out, I was way too subassertive to even notice, let alone stand up for myself. Luckily enough, I had a good working relationship with my manager. She arranged for me to be on paid personal leave, even though I could no longer be on sick leave. This gave me some time to look for a new job, while trying to recover from the stress my last job gave me.
I flirted with depression for a month or two, but when I found a new job my mood improved and my energy and positivity returned. I got a job working for the government, in occupational medicine. The hours are way better, the salary is better, and I can work close to my home most days. The job is not as exciting as my last job, and it isn't exactly what I envisioned for my future, but it seemed like a good place to work while recovering. Apparently, that's what my brain thought too. The first few weeks of working there, I was enjoying myself a lot. I felt genuinely happy, I got on well with my coworkers, and when I got off work I still had some afternoon and evening left to do stuff that wasn't work. I liked my prospects, even if the job wasn't that challenging intellectually. Things seemed to be going well. I could tell the stress from my previous job was still somewhere in the background, but it didn't feel like it was bothering me that much.
You can probably tell where this is going: I was wrong. I was almost two months into the job when I heard a coworker say some pretty derogatory things about people on the autism spectrum. This threw me completely off balance. That same evening, I was feeling suicidal for the first time in years. I tried to downplay it, and figured it was just an extreme reaction combined with some lingering self-hatred. The suicidal thoughts disappeared into the background for a bit, so I thought I was relatively okay again. I didn't feel great, but I figured it would pass.
I kept working full-time, where I was kind, empathetic and professional every day. I had happy emotions on the surface, but discontent was silently brewing in the background. I wasn't fully aware of it, but it kept popping up from time to time. I didn't even notice the growing depression. I brushed off the hour-long crying fits at night. I brushed off the sudden increase in night terrors. I chose to ignore the fact that I couldn't sleep more than three hours a night. I brushed off the sudden intense urges to drink copious amounts of alcohol and do drugs at any given hour during the day. I laughed about this, because I wasn't going to do it anyway. I mentioned to my boyfriend how I thought it was funny that I kept having suicidal thoughts without feeling all that depressed. He didn't really think it was funny. He's seen me depressed before, and there was nothing funny about it.
I was obviously quite wrong about not feeling depressed. I was just so busy with my professional mask all day that I never really stopped to notice how I was feeling. I'd been having a lot of busy weekends lately, but two weeks ago I had my first weekend with no plans whatsoever. I was really looking forward to it. I woke up in the morning, ready to make plans and do fun stuff, when the existential dread hit me. 48 hours of emptiness ahead of me. How on earth do I survive this? I felt the beginning of a panic attack. I tried to wake up my boyfriend, but he was blissfully comatose. I tried connecting with some friends and family but soon realized everyone was out of town for the weekend, or otherwise engaged. I felt a familiar, crushing loneliness and dread come over me. I panicked so much. I wanted to not feel like this and was desperately trying to think of something, anything really, to take my mind off of this. I was hit by the full force of how terrible I felt, and it was paralyzing. I ended up crying and napping on the couch all day until my boyfriend woke up. I felt too heavy to even move. I was feeling suicidal all day, but it was sort of comforting to realize I felt too heavy and tired to do something about it anyway. It was a hard realization. I didn't do much of anything that weekend. I just ate, cried and slept.
That monday morning I immediately went to see my manager to tell him that I am currently struggling with depression. He was kind and understanding and told me to take time off when I need it and not to worry about my job. That afternoon I had an emergency meeting with my family doctor and my psychologist. They agreed that I seem to be going through some sort of crisis. I got anxiolytics and antidepressants to help me sleep, and I got an emergency referral to a crisis center for mental health in my area. That night I slept for 12 hours. I was still rather out of it next day, so after I had seen my patients I had another talk with my manager and told him I wasn't really feeling like myself due to new medication. I suggested working from home while adjusting to my medication. He appreciated my directness and agreed. I took it easy the rest of the week. This week I was able to return to work normally. This is a blessing for me currently, because work is a welcome distraction for me and it makes sure I get human interaction. I feel relatively normal when I'm working. Sadly, the minute I stop focusing on work, I get a barrage of negative thoughts. The psychiatrist started me on antipsychotics this week. It's supposed to help me sleep and slow down my constant stream of thoughts. I've been sleeping a little better, but I mostly just want to eat ALL OF THE CARBS ALL OF THE TIME. It currently feels like I am trying to fill the hole where happy feelings used to be with sugar and fat. Still, although I categorized my depressionas severe now, I felt like it couldn't be that bad, because I am still able to enjoy things.
Last night I had a celebratory dinner with my boyfriend because we've been together for five years. I wanted to celebrate, even though I'm not in the best way. We picked a romantic restaurant that has special meaning for us. The atmosphere was great, the food was great, and my boyfriend looked gorgeous in his linen suit. I knew that I was supposed to be enjoying myself immensely, but I didn't feel much of anything. Well, I felt annoyed about a few things, but that's not really the type of feeling I want to experience. I couldn't really come up with any topic for conversation either. My boyfriend later said he also noticed my "flatness". I cried myself to sleep last night.
Still, not all is bad. Yes, I have a pretty serious depression at the moment. No, I don't feel like anything is going to be okay. But I know it will most likely be. I have plenty of life experience from earlier bouts of depression. What's different this time is I have a job with a boss that allows me to plan my office hours around treatment. I have my steady paycheck. I have my friends. I have my family. I have a stable relationship with a loving boyfriend. I've overcome much worse than this. I just need to hang on a little longer.
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A change of scenery. Also, depression.