It's the Mental Health Foundation's Mental Health Awareness Week next week, and I'm glad to see campaigns trying to raise wider awareness of mental health issues. FanDuel, my employer, are doing their part internally, by arranging activities and information sharing forums throughout the week. I'd like to contribute to these efforts by talking briefly about my experience of, and progress with, Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I wrote last year about my diagnosis.
It's been about eight months since I first went to speak with my doctor, and I'm so glad that I did. I've been taking 20mg of Paroxetine every day now, and while there were some initial side effects (excessive tiredness and yawning, upset stomach), these seem to have levelled out, and I'm doing much better. I use a Fidget Cube to keep my hands occupied when I'm feeling particularly nervous, anxious or distracted. I sometimes spin pens around my thumb, but that often leads to projectile stationery at awkward moments during meetings!
I've found myself much more able to focus and concentrate on what I want, and need to do, without being distracted by the noise of all the other things that used to cause me such anxiety and distraction. There are good days and bad days, but the good far outnumber the bad. The bad days see me being more indecisive and distracted; irritable; self-critical and lacking in self confidence. Thankfully those around me, who care about me, recognise this.
Being able to talk about GAD without stigma or prejudice has helped so much. Were I not able to, I don't think I'd be doing as well as I am. Perhaps counter intuitively, talking about it makes it less of a big deal: just one facet of who I am, rather than a defining characteristic.
My friends and family have been immensely supportive, even if they don't completely understand what it means. FanDuel, and the team I work with have been great. When I'm having an off-day, I can let my manager know, without worry or fear. He appreciates me keeping him in the loop. I can accept that I'm having a bad day, ride it out, and do better the next day, all the while knowing that I've got the support of my manager, colleagues etc.
It's super important that people talk about these issues, try not to be afraid to ask for help, take the rough with the smooth, and accept that we're all individuals travelling our own path through this life, fighting our own little battles. Some of those paths cross with others' and they can help you fight those battles, together. Be yourself, and embrace what makes you who you are, even if that means living with a mental health issue.