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How Working in Long-Term Care Affected My Mental Health

An older man that struggles with mental issues talks about his long-term care.

I have Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. The roots of my mental health story started in childhood, although I didn’t know it at the time.

Looking back on those years now, I can clearly see that mental illness has been my companion for a very long time.

I was a very behavioral child, aggressive towards objects and just anger all the time, constantly in trouble at school.

There has always been this heaviness, unidentified in those days but now I realize that the anger was merely a manifestation of an underlying issue, I now know it as depression.

I didn’t catch on to my anxiety disorder until I was in my teens. Still unaware that how I felt came with labels, that didn’t stop both disorders impacting me in the form of social withdrawal and continues to do so to this very day.

I am social to a degree but being social comes at a cost. It exhausts me mentally if I am exposed to the outside world for too long.

It is an illness after all and almost illnesses come with the side effect of being wiped out in short order.

As an adult, I spent 15 years in the volunteer fire service and I also worked 20 years in long term care.

I work with aggressive individuals, with mental illness and who have a variety of medical/psychiatric illness.

Autism, cognitive delays etc. Both expose me to constant violence, death, noise and overall chaos This constant exposure for years and years wreaked havoc on my mental health, causing me to take leave from work several times.

As I struggled with my own mental disorders, my work environment became overwhelming and over stimulating. Now, I am off because of my mental injury. I have recently been diagnosed with PTSD and as a result, I am now off on workers compensation.

I think what has triggered my suicidal battle has simply been the length of time I have suffered from the pain of mental illness. My dance with suicidal ideation is a passive one, I have never actually attempted suicide.

My illnesses are such that I often experience neuropathy like pain that only increases the frequency of these thoughts in my head. Sometimes, I just feel so sad that it seems to trigger these thoughts be a default.

I guess I understood the magnitude of the situation I am in. Having an educational background in counseling helps too. It helped me see that it is a very real phenomenon in our society and to take it seriously.

This knowledge allowed me to acknowledge that I needed help. I have always made family the epicenter of my life which has been a saving grace.

Also, the positive result of the tragedies I have witnessed in both the fire service and my occupation taught me the appreciate the frailty of life.

I was constantly exposed to those left behind and I don’t want that for all the people I care about. I don’t want them to experience that kind of pain.

My family has a stake in my life and thus in my health overall, I fight on because it’s not only my life, a piece of me belongs to them too. Therefore, I understand that I must soldier on and do whatever it takes to win the war.

I think it’s best to seek out help from anyone whom they have a strong rapport with from a teacher to a best friend.

Build a social network of people who are in the same situation, reach out to them and ask them how they found help. In other words, they have to be their own warrior.

I haven’t overcome my mental illness to be honest, I am in a moment by moment battle to manage it.

My coping tools are; a good diet, lots of exercise and forced connection with friends and family.

I say forced because I choose to put my energy into them rather than my disorders. When my depression tells me to stay home, I defy it and I force myself to connect.

That being said, I have learned my limits and I pay attention to them. I refuse to apologize when I am not able to partake in activities. My journey continues, moment by moment.

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