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Learning How to Live on My Own Again With a Mental Illness


I began writing in April 2018 when worsening symptoms of PTSD and depression stopped me working as an ED nurse. Writing is therapy.

A kitchen table with two chairs and lots of sunlight

A kitchen table with two chairs and lots of sunlight

In my last article, I wrote about planning, organising and worrying about a trip back home to assess my property and hopefully put some anxieties to bed. Now I would like to share some of the surprising things I have struggled with this previous week, on my own, at home. It’s great that I’m well enough to make this trip, but it hasn’t been straight forward. So far, this trip has shown how much I rely on people for things I didn’t expect.

The Challenges Around Insomnia and Sleep Medication

One of the most successful achievements of my time in a mental health ward is finally being able to sleep. Insomnia has been a significant factor in my life for as long as I can remember, and I’ve done so many things to cure it—some prescribed and some not. According to a study done by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, one in four Americans develop insomnia each year.

Early in the process of me engaging with mental health services, I was prescribed regular benzodiazepines in attempt to manage my anxiety and help me sleep, but I didn’t see a difference until I was prescribed a different antidepressant, one with sedative effects—or what I recall the consultant trying to sell it to me. By that point I’d stopped caring and just took the tablet without asking any questions.

The effect was phenomenal. About 25 minutes after taking my evening meds I thought I was having a stroke and woke up ten hours later utterly amazed. Sleep is something that’s been vacant throughout my life as a result of childhood trauma, but this pill takes care of that. It's brilliant. However, from time to time, I need to be awake before nine in the morning, and it’s as if my alarm doesn’t work at all on those occasions. So far, my family and friends help me wake up on time but waking up independently would be awesome and would probably mean a less anxious evening and better sleep.

Why I Use a Medication Reminder App

If relying on someone to wake you on time at the age of 28 isn’t embarrassing enough, there’s the matter of my medication. Just over a week ago, I was still in my grandparents’ house while I planned this trip. My concerned grandparents would ask me four times a day if I had taken my meds. They asked every day since I was discharged from the hospital. So I never missed a dose.

I knew that when I went back to living alone, I was going to be the same ditsy and forgetful person so I searched for a medication reminder app on my phone, which has been relapse-preventing at the very least. It even hassles you if you hit snooze for some reason to delay a dose. I’m impressed and can safely say that this app has ensured I never missed my meds.

Cleaning can sometimes help my anxiety.

Cleaning can sometimes help my anxiety.

Cleaning Helps My Anxiety But Prevents Me From Truly Living

When I arrived home to my beautiful little apartment by the sea I expected to have a certain amount of cleaning to do in order to make it the cosy and spotless home I had left ten months previously. Yet I feel like it never ends. It's so annoying that I always manage to get the carpet muddy just after I’ve cleaned it only to have to clean it for the fifth time that day. This means a large percentage of my day is working towards something that falls undone in an instant. However, as an extra tidy sort of person, I’m used to running after mess all day both at work and at home. Tidy space, tidy mind yeah? It’s not the first time I’ve been called out for being too tidy.

It was after I really had finished my work in the garden (and therefore the carpets were safe for a time for a change) that I realised how being busy was saving me from myself and my anxiety. I was really aware for the first time how task-focused I had been, making less time to panic, which was amazing.

However, this should be the time to enjoy the fruits of my labour but that wasn’t possible due to this rising unease about needing to clean. Let’s hope things become less boring and repetitive—with more time for friends and the beach.

Home Is Where I Need to Be

When this anxiety and panic settled enough, I was able to sneak a moment of pride when I looked around my home, the home that had sheltered me through really awful times but also great times, like parties with friends and movie sleepovers with family. Fundamentally, I just love it here and I have no intention of letting it go despite panicked talks about finances and me being off work due to my mental health. Even though I’m not quite ready to be living independently just yet, for the first time I really feel like I’m getting there, and I look forward to doing something I love for a living and to be able to enjoy my beautiful place.

Maybe there are some rose-tinted glasses being worn here or maybe absence made the heart grow fonder. After all, a home is more than bricks and roof tiles.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 04, 2019:

We are talking great here. Isn't it great! We have such stuff to care about.