Once I’d discovered that I had a problem that wasn’t going away in a hurry, one of the most important things that helped me on my journey to recovery was finding people who I could talk to about my worries. This might come easily to some but being a perfectionist made it very difficult for me to explore this avenue. My experience of being a perfectionist was that I always had to work very hard to make it seem to others that I had all my stuff together. I’ll talk about perfectionism in a future post but for now, let’s just say it wasn’t an easy step for me to say to others that I couldn’t cope.
There have been some giants in my journey, people who’ve supported me because they cared. People who took the time to listen to me, who said exactly the things that I needed to hear. I have always felt that the vast majority of people in this world are good and trustworthy. Several moments over the past four years have confirmed this view, I placed trust in various people throughout this process and my willingness to be vulnerable was almost always rewarded.
The first giant was my manager in London. I wasn’t functioning well at work and became anxious that people would discover my lack of concentration and think me inept. I took the step of taking my manager aside and explaining to him that I was having difficulty concentrating and that I was getting really stressed as a result. He told me that he understood and gave me time off to try to reduce my stress levels. Although the time off didn’t help resolve the problem, it reduced the pressure that I was feeling at work, which gave me some breathing space to look for solutions.
I returned to Australia a couple of months later, not because of the brain fog, but my wife was due with our first baby and we wanted to raise our children in Australia, close to our extended families. By now my symptoms had deteriorated, the severity of those mind-numbing sensations had grown significantly. What started out as mild, intermittent symptoms, mainly present in the mornings, had stretched out into a heavier and more constant strain on my mental capabilities lasting well into the afternoon.
My second giant, the most important non-medical person who helped me through my recovery, was my older brother. My brother has been through his fair share of tough times, having worked his way through many years of anxiety and depression. He is one of the most grounded and positive influences one could hope to have in their lives. I had never really spoken openly to him about my issues in the past but he was immediately equipped and ready to help guide me through my current struggles.
Over the next few years I continued to find more giants along my path; a previous mentor who was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome; an old friend; immediate family members; my new manager at work. After spending 18 months in a new job back in Australia, I decided to quit as I was finding the pressure of the job to be too great given my lack of concentration. In an amazing show of compassion, the Finance Director at my work, who did not know about my condition, gave me a month’s paid leave, with no strings attached, to determine whether I really wanted to leave the company and to give me some space to figure out what I wanted to do next. She does not know how critical this month off was to getting me on the path to recovery. During this break I went to see the doctor who put me on the right path to recovery.