Psychology – Seven Years of No.

I have resisted talking to any mental health professional (for myself) for over seven years. Although it has always been clear that my chronic pain developed after a workplace injury in the early 2000s and still is the pain trigger for my Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). I have always had family, friends, work colleagues, allied health teams, and well-intended keyboard warriors question my mental health and FND symptoms.

Therefore I have been dismissive and extremely assertive in saying NO to any mental health review/s or treatment/s. So if planning was needed from a social worker for a hospital discharge, I’d say no; if Chaplain services were offered, I said no. I was closed.   

Mental health was a dirty word growing up, and the negative stigma placed on these illnesses grew an unhealthy and unbalanced approach to supporting me.

I was the first to offer and set up support for my family; however, if it was about me, a hard no.

I had a standard approach; I was always ‘okay’ and confirmed to anyone asking that I could and would sustain anything, no matter what pressure or how full my cup was. I thrive in stressful environments and have a high-stress threshold, which has made me successful in my professional and academic endeavours.

I visited my GP about six weeks ago, and he asked if I was talking to anyone about my disability. I quickly responded, no! 

He was gentle with his second approach and asked me differently. He said, ‘Jeramy do you think you need to talk to a psychologist, someone to talk to about coming to terms with having a permanent lifelong disability?’ This time my response was different. I paused for a bit, I got up the courage and said yes.

Another appointment was booked for a mental health plan, and a referral was given to a specialist pain psychologist close to home.

I was still second-guessing the appointment booked and nearly cancelled a few times, not wanting to ‘fail’ or be seen as someone not coping. This engrained inner voice steered me away from something that could potentially provide the start of a new headspace and clarity.

The first session was challenging; it takes time to connect and trust, and there were elements of their plan that I had already done considerable research and work on personally. We both needed to adjust for session two. By the second session, both parties better understood, and we could dig deeper.

It will take time to accept that FND and chronic pain are permanent lifelong disability. However, my disability is part of me but it does not define me. I can still have outrageous career goals; we can build our family’s dream home, and I can still provide (continue to work) for my family. I need support in some areas of my life to do this; however, it’s more than possible.

So back where we started, I saw a psychologist and began a relationship with a specialist that needs me to be introspective. It’s been a rough, raw month. Childhood memories, trauma events, mistakes, reflections, and many conversations with my wife and younger brother about the ‘meaning of life.’ 

We have concluded that life is messy and at times, unfair. Trauma is real, it impacts people differently, and is no less impactful or real to others. Trust me it’s a lousy exercise to measure who the most fucked up one is.

I hate when people ask me why I have a neurological/brain disorder or why my legs wobble. I’m not too fond of it when people make assumptions or decide on my behalf what’s going on for me. I have to accept many unknowns, and that’s ok. While I do that, hopefully, I will get the opportunity to learn to move forward and enjoy things I have traditionally closed off; as an example, enjoy Christmas again. Whatever acceptance means to me about my disability, I know to embrace this.

I am in hospital again:

  • Is this because I am in pain? Yes.
  • Is this because I can’t walk? Yes.
  • Is this because I am unsafe at home? Yes.
  • Does having a head full of family stressors contribute? Yes.

However, this is who I am for now. In the coming months, I am hoping for balance. Support at home from the NDIS would have kicked in, and equipment prescriptions underway will hopefully reduce the frequency of Hospital visits and maintain some level of independence.

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