Help is available if you need it

Do you find yourself struggling? Do you feel like you’re alone in a black hole? Are you drowning in financial challenges? I was, too, and I am relieved to say there is hope, and there is a way out. As a teenager, I lacked self-esteem and confidence — I never felt like I fit in. I played in the band, but was too nervous to perform. I enjoyed reading and had a photographic memory, but still couldn’t concentrate on tests. In college, I had difficulty sleeping. I forced myself into social situations, but never felt comfortable. A neck injury from a car accident led to years of chronic pain and even less enjoyment in life. Shortly after graduating and getting married, I contracted Lyme disease. The infection in my brain further intensified my headaches and impaired my thought processes. My words would jumble, and I would see things that weren’t really there. Ultimately, it would keep me from balancing my own checkbook and limit me from driving.

It took nearly a year before a doctor was able to treat the symptoms. Unfortunately, however, no one knew the longterm effects. After the birth of each of my two daughters, I suffered severe postpartum depression. My symptoms were so extreme I could barely function, and because of my misconceptions of reality, I trusted no one to care for my children. When they were very young, my marriage ended in divorce. It was too much to try to balance a job, a family and my mental illness symptoms. I tried to find a lower stress job — as a result, I faced financial hardship.

My teen daughter also struggles with symptoms. After reaching our lowest point, we were able — with the assistance of our doctor — to find inpatient and outpatient programs that provided the support and tools necessary to motivate us to live again.

I had fears that my supervisor was watching me and that I would lose my job. I was limited because of tremors in my hands. Finally, when I couldn’t think and couldn’t stop crying, I begged my doctor for help.

I began medication. I was forced to take a medical leave and was referred to a psychiatrist. She adjusted my medications in an effort to control my panic attacks, anxiety and depression. I additionally had sessions with a counselor, talked with other people who had similar symptoms, engaged in healthy eating, exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction techniques. I was also finally able to get some sleep.

Immediately after returning to work, my employer terminated my position. As a result of the tools I learned, I was eventually able to find employment that offered the support and security I needed. They encouraged a work-life balance. Employee assistance programs, peer support groups and medical and psychiatric/psychological professionals can assist you in finding the resources you need.

Even though I cycle through my illness and have good days and bad, I have found there is hope. I am not alone. All I have to do is ask.

Connie Frank, RN, works at RCS and is a member of Healthy Sheboygan County 2020’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition.