February 18, 2020•729 words
Today is my first day of medical leave. It might not be a medical leave you normally expect, and that's why I decided to write about it.
I'm on medical leave for depression and anxiety.
I'm sharing this with you for the small chance it helps destigmatize mental health issues. And because I believe in radical transparency.
If you're not familiar with the term, Ray Dalio has popularized it by explaining how his hedge fund uses it to operate: "When I say I believe in radical truth and radical transparency, all I mean is we take things that ordinarily people would hide, and we put them on the table, particularly mistakes, problems, and weaknesses. We put those on the table, and we look at them together. We don't hide them." Or in my case, I usually mention how I took a computer security class in college and now just assume all my information is already public knowledge. So if you want to know something just ask.
I noticed that my depression was reaching severe levels when I took a quiz at the doctor and noticed my answers had trended upwards significantly. With my anxiety being so comorbid it was like being unfit to raise a child and then discovering you had twins on the way. What did this look like?
- Attempting to work, and getting immediately roadblocked by overthinking. Imagine: Being asked to make a paper airplane and then having your brain insist you need to read a book on aeronautics first.
- Unrealistically judging every failure, no matter how small. Imagine: Becoming your own disappointed parent, one that's with you every second of every day.
- Spending time with someone you care about and having to logically acknowledge your feelings for them. Because emotionally you simply don't feel anything (and it has nothing to do with them). Imagine: Watching two people through a window and deducing that they enjoy spending time together.
The phrase "medical leave" may bring to mind physical issues that make it difficult to show up at work, making bed rest more suitable so that that person can come back with full energy in the future. The issues above can start to show you why this mental issue would require the same thing. I noticed that over time things were slipping worse and worse. It's hard to schedule an appointment on time when you barely have energy to show up at work. I finally decided that it was time to prioritize my health as it had become apparent it'd be better for not only me but my coworkers and career as well.
I'm currently seeking Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment (TMS) with my psychiatrist as well as working with a skills-based therapist. If you consider thoughts as just electrochemical reactions, you can simplify it as a system of two ingredients: electricity and chemicals. While medication targets the chemical aspect, TMS targets the electrical aspect. TMS helps strengthen the electrical pathways in your brain that are currently underutilized, resulting in depression, anxiety or certain other issues. The therapy I'm doing paairs well with this, as it's learning behaviors that will correct the negative thought loops I experience. Combined, it's (theoretically) like tuning up your car and learning to drive it.
Learning that TMS requires 4-8 weeks of receiving treatment 5 days a week was the final piece that caused me to take medical leave. It just didn't make sense to add more commitments on top of a jenga tower that was already mostly hollow. And yet, I was still worried that taking time off would feel unnecessary when I got into it. "Is it just going to feel like vacation?" I asked myself.
Waking up today I realized that it was quite the opposite. I have much to do. I may not be working, but I'm working on myself.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, I enjoy helping and will get back when I'm able to.
If you want to send well wishes or offer your help, this sentence is me accepting that from you and that's all I need. If you still insist you need to inform me of your well wishes, click this link and it'll send me a push notification that says "I like you." https://maker.ifttt.com/trigger/I_like_you/with/key/d090H1EKNKnyrVl6F6dZxr