My name is Scott, and I have a mental health problem. Finally admitting that to myself and others is a bit scary, yet relieving. I’ve never looked down on others who have struggled with things like depression, anxiety, substance abuse caused by underlying issues, or the like, but I have been less-than-patient with them due in no small part to my own unclassified struggles. I never thought I had a problem, that what I recognize now as symptoms were how I was wired. When taken as a whole and translated over the span of my life, they chart up to a condition that, on my good days no one would ever suspect something is wrong but on my bad days makes me a person you don’t want to be around.
My Type-A mindset and ultra-competitive streak can be traced back to childhood. I hit academic benchmarks slightly ahead of others (though not as quickly as high achievers are hitting them nowadays), I was always into sports (though more on the mental side than the physical), I was high-strung and structured, I didn’t get into trouble, and I was looked up to for my smarts. Combined that with what I felt were certain birthrights (fed to me in part by others, but to which I bought in completely), it started the process by which I viewed myself as “superior” to others (based on just those areas where the evidence backed me up) and began what would be a bloodless (or at times bloodthirsty) quest for power and control. It made making friendships with peers difficult because everyone was a competitor, but I was able to seek out friendships with those I felt were clearly above me (to be utilized to help me move up to their level) or those clearly below me (with whom I didn’t have to compete/compare resumes). I wanted to date, but would never put myself out there for fear of failure/not being liked, which I think is chicken-or-egg with my natural shyness/reservedness/borderline introversion.
In adulthood, that mindset would play itself out in a variety of ways. I didn’t care a lot about money, but having it and keeping it gave me security and a tangible scoreboard of my own value to the world. Gaining or seizing power/influence/control would allow me to put in place “the right way” of doing things, but if others couldn’t live up to that standard I felt no use for them and would “do it myself”. It led to inappropriate behaviors (mostly ones played out in my mind, since I am also conflict-avoidant and rules-adhering) and caused problems in relationships with those closest to me. Events in early adulthood came together to propel me deeper into my condition and would see aspects of it manifest themselves. It caused a long-time rift with my sister (which has never been completely resolved), it strained my relationship with my wife (which years later led to me leaving her for a time), and ultimately would lead to my current state of affairs. I attempted to get counseling years ago, but in the end either I was too stuck in my mindset for it to work or the therapist wasn’t showing me how she was attempting to address my condition (don’t know which one is necessarily true, but both are plausible).
This past week in the Partial Hospital Program (all-day programming, but home in the evenings) has helped me in a number of ways. It has extricated me from the environment which triggered my anxiety attacks/mental breakdowns while giving me a supportive place to express what I’m feeling/thinking and to begin learning coping techniques and come to terms with the condition I feel I have always had but couldn’t label as one (I had tried with previous therapists, as mentioned previously). Whether I get an official diagnosis of what I think I have or just a general one that is less-defined/stigmatizing, I have gained access to resources to begin dealing with it so I can move closer to better mental health and living with it (much as one would with high blood pressure or diabetes or a chronic illness). I hope also that this will be the kick-start to improving other areas of my life for my own betterment (though what “for my own betterment” is vs. other motives has never been clear-cut because of my mindset). I go back tomorrow and should be discharged to outpatient care sometime this week. Keep me in your thoughts, reach out if you want, and thank you for listening.