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Depression, no hard and fast rule apply

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Today, I looked at the different hats that I’m trying to wear on a daily basis and in order to put things into perspective, I thought it might be a good idea to write the main ones down.

- Mother - Partner - Friend

- Sister - Daughter - Employee

- Extended family - Physical well being - Mental well being

- Illness recovery - House maker  - Cook

- Cleaner - Counselor - Teacher - Planner - Writer - Brain injury survivor

Brain injury or not, I believe that wearing all those hats is a fine balancing act. I think that many will agree in saying that taken individually, all these hats are equally important. They are all hats that I love to wear but that can be hard to wear at times too. Which raises a few questions...How do you prioritize when you realize that you can’t wear them all at the same time? How do you prioritize when your reduced capacities only allow you to contemplate managing a few of these hats at one time? How do you decide which one to put on ahead of another when they are all so closely connected, when the success of one is somewhat linked to another? 

By trying to be too many things at once, I feel like I end up falling short on so many levels.

I’m afraid to say that I’m not sure that I have an answer here. I think that we simply have to adjust to the situations as they arise. In the process, we are going to make decisions or choices and most of us will have to live with the consequences of our decisions...good or bad. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that ultimately, we make our decisions based on what we know, on what we value, on who we are and on what feels right at the time. 

I received a medical report last week from an assessment that was carried out a few weeks back. The content of the report took me somewhat by surprise and I found it pretty hard to swallow as it made me question many of the actions and decisions that I’ve taken over the last 2 1/2 years. Following encephalitis and it’s resulting brain injury, I’ve always been greatly aware of the risks of developing some sort of psychiatric disorder such as depression or anxiety. I was well aware of the staggering statistics that were stacking up against me. I read lengthily about the signs and symptoms and I was determined not to be part of those statistics.

A whopping 75.2% of individuals who suffered a brain injury are diagnosed with psychiatric disorder within the first 5 years of their brain event. Of that percentage,56.5% of those individuals would have never experienced that type of disorder before [1]. 

How did I try to beat the statistics?

I reached out to relevant health specialists to help support my recovery and to make sure that my mental health held as important of a place in my life as my physical health. A few close individuals in my entourage have been key to help me stay focused on the progress made during this journey. I developed coping mechanisms to help me manage my situation on a daily basis and I very quickly worked on putting in place measures to help me bounce back from low “lows” as quickly and gracefully as possible. In the process I’ve walked A LOT of miles along the beach to clear the mind of all the chatter and to take in the beauty that is surrounding me. For the most part, I’ve been coping as good as one would expect should they be put in similar circumstances. I thought that my weird wonderful brain and I were doing fine. Sure, I’m the first one to admit that I have my lows, that I do hold some crying sessions every now and again, but ultimately, I’m also able to recognize that life still has lots to offer and that there is so much more to be seen and lived. So long story short, I thought I was handling things well, that if I continued to work hard on myself, to seek the positive over the negative and to maintain my coping mechanisms that I’d keep bouncing back. 

Did I miss anything?

Whether I forgot all about my readings regarding the ways in which depression and anxiety can

sneak up on you or chose to wear my rosy glasses when it came to it all I’m not too sure? Perhaps in being so desperate to not be part of those statistics I failed to recognized that some things were greater than me, greater than my outmost good will, greater than all those coping mechanisms that keep me going on a daily basis? Perhaps I forgot that my weird wonderful brain now has a brain of its own? So the recent persisting depression disorder diagnosis hit me pretty hard. I felt like I had completely failed to recognize the obvious. I didn’t like the label, I didn’t like the proposed solution, I hated the fact that I failed to recognize that this might be an issue, I felt like all the efforts invested over the last few years to maintain my mental boat afloat was done in vain. I felt further damaged, I was frustrated and above all very sad.  I wondered whether I self sabotaged part of my recovery by making some aspects of my life harder than they should be had I been able to recognize that depression was an issue. However, there came a point where I knew that if I kept chewing on those feelings that it would stop me from moving forward. 

Moving on...

After going through my own internal processing of the report’s content, I shared some of those emotions steaming inside me with a few close individuals in my life. Their kind and reassuring words resonated with me reminding me that all those decisions that I made along the way to enable me to deal with those multiple hats of mine were not made in vain. That I learnt a lot in the process and developed great tools. That, had I not worked hard on managing my mental health from the very beginning, many of those hats would be pretty worn out by now. That most importantly, I had not failed. That if anyone had given managing this situation their best go, it was me. So, as has been the case since the beginning of this journey, good common sense eventually prevailed. I’ve finally decided to take this new diagnosis on the chin and to stand tall once more. 

Losing a battle doesn’t mean that you are defeated, it simply means that you got to stop and take 5 to reassess your overall strategy. I haven’t got that strategy all figured out yet, but as I listed the different hats I’ve got to wear, I noticed pretty quickly that I might need to wear some of those hats slightly differently for a while...but hopefully not forever. My expectations need to be reviewed once more so I stop thinking that I’m falling short on all levels. So many hats but just one head after all right! At the end of the day, we all do our best to wear our multiple hats while trying to make our own little fashion statement along the way!

Read another of my blog that addresses anxiety post brain injury: Brain injury and Anxiety

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1 Comment

Mark Martin
Mark Martin
May 02, 2020

So sorry to hear of your diagnosis of depression! The statistics you quoted were very enlightening (and a bit scary), I hadn’t heard them before. So many around us just do not understand why E does to us! My boss expects me to be “who I was”, after all, that was 3 years ago!! (Easy for him to say!) I don’t remember being an anxious person before, but post-E, I definitely have a tendency to be. Especially when I’m under pressure to “perform” either at work or socially!! Time will tell who we will end up becoming and what we are truly capable of. Thank you once again for sharing your story and your experiences!!!

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