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Time to Focus on My Mental Health


Finance is a part of life that has to be managed, along with health, relationships, work, and the rest. And life is very difficult to manage when your mental health takes a strike. That’s why I’ve decided it’s time to focus on my mental health. This will probably impact my budget a bit, despite my benefits.

Work has been nutty

I’ve been run ragged at work lately. We’ve had a number of issues arise that have led to me working well into the nights. In addition, my mother’s house sold and so my family is packing up and moving in a matter of a couple of weeks. I haven’t had much free time (read: minutes a day!). I’m not sleeping well, not exercising regularly, and feeling like I can’t keep up.

It started with a cold about two weeks ago. I couldn’t take a sick day because the guy in the UK called in sick before me each day. Three days in a row. By the second day, we were in a crisis at work and had C-level execs on a 24-hour conference line working through the issues. Work from home it was. Those were some long days…

And then there were the holidays

I was still sick and run down. Thanksgiving weekend, I visited my family and had dinners with everyone, and had work to catch up on, too. It’s not a holiday for my clients in the US! I was still submitting data to be processed in batches that were running overnight, and waking up at 5am to check on them. Then, I’d take cold medicine to go back to sleep a couple hours and wake up with that groggy got-hit-by-a-bus feeling. But I was still motoring along – this isn’t a man cold (side note: what a horrible stereotype – everyone needs to rest when sick!). I cleaned the house, exercised the dog, stayed on top of work.

A weekend to “rest”

I left for my dad’s on Friday and was looking forward to a relaxing weekend with my dad and stepmom. And mostly it was great! We did a lot of hiking and had fires at night. We played music and told stories and enjoyed the incredible foliage.


It was lovely, but I could feel the anxiety building while packing up my car. Driving home Sunday, I was feeling sick within the first mile. When I was about 20 minutes from my dad’s, I had pulled over four times. I almost called 911 but realized it must be a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe and it felt like the car wouldn’t drive straight. Not good on the winding, hilly, country roads out in the Kawarthas region!

I called my dad, and he came to get me. They only have one car right now and my stepmom was at work. There is no public transit out there and even taxis are hard to come by, so that took some time. He drove my car home to Toronto while I cried and tried to breathe. I won’t get into all the details of my panic attack, but I was very physically ill. We stopped for me to be sick a few times. He ended up taking a four-hour coach bus back to his neck of the woods. What I wouldn’t do without that man in my life.

Dad driving me home

What now?

I still can’t drive. I’ve tried twice, and when I go over 25 MPH it feels like I can’t control the car. I went to work Monday and Tuesday and that wasn’t the best idea. I’ve had a headache and nausea non-stop since Sunday. I am NEVER sick, and hardly ever go to the doctor, so I’ve been stubbornly refusing to deal with this. I have been drinking water and tea, and eating light nutritious meals, hoping this will pass. And it isn’t. I can’t figure out if I am suffering from some kind of inner ear imbalance affecting my ability to drive. It feels like the steering pulls hard left but my car was at the dealership two weeks ago for maintenance and my dad said the alignment is fine. But I suspect this is psychological as well. I am so anxious, I am overcome with worry most of the day.

I’ve never had mental health issues in my 32 years, thankfully. I’ve always adjusted with sleep and exercise but I just…can’t. I can’t this time. And I feel guilty, embarrassed, and scared of needing to find help now. I feel like a real failure. I’ve always been the stable one.

Time to ask for help

I called the hospital Sunday and asked for the distress line. They said they couldn’t help me unless I was going to harm myself, and to see my family doctor for a psych referral. I emailed some clinics begging for a last minute spot, saying I can pay for the appointment but need to see someone urgently, and I got nowhere. There are social services for youth, young parents, and families but not for single adults. I found some apps:

  • BetterHelp is an app that connects you with a therapist right away. It’s about $80/week CAD and you pay for the month up front. It can’t be submitted through benefits.
  • A service called Maple here in Canada has on-demand licensed therapy. It’s $120/session but can be submitted through benefits programs that allow for psychotherapy. They provide a session within 12 hours of signing up.

I think I’m going to take a sick day tomorrow to go see my family doctor as well. I’d like to eliminate any physical symptoms so I can focus on this paralyzing anxiety. If anyone has any suggestions for me, I’m all ears. I have $500 a year for therapy in my benefits, and another $750 in my health spending account. I’m going to research the best way to go about this tomorrow.



  • Reply Margann34 |

    Elisabeth, I have had anxiety for 10 years. It started with a stressful time in my life. High stress levels result in anxiety and panic attacks. There is nothing “wrong” with you. Your body is just over active and is pumping out adrenaline and cortisol which causes a host of physical symptoms including dizziness, nausea, headaches, tight muscles, feeling like you can’t breath. Please check out the website http://www.anxietycentre.com. It really helped me manage my panic attacks. Spend the extra money for the membership. It is totally worth it! Please contact me if you need to talk.

  • Reply Charlotte |

    Do you have Employee Assistance plan, with your benefits? usually there is a number you can call and you can get someone to talk to pretty fast… first contact some times is in email, worth a try.

  • Reply Taryn |

    I’m in the mental health field. Definitely start with your primary care doc – rule out anything medical and see if they have a good referral for you to check out. They may know good leads for therapy that you haven’t found on your own. They may even suggest short-term medication to manage this anxiety.

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      Thank you! I went to my doctor and my ears were all full of gunk. I got some of that removed and I am indeed feeling better today. Dizziness is gone. I am easing back into driving.

  • Reply Margann34 |

    I want to clarify: when I said there is nothing “wrong”, i mean that it is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Your body is responding to high stress and fear. And once you have a panic attack, you become terrified because you don’t understand what is happening and that adds more stress and fear. It is a downward spiral. See a Dr to rule out other possible problems for sure. But sound exactly how my anxiety attacks started.

  • Reply Kay |

    This breathing method works like a champ when I’m having a panic attack. My mom was taught by her doctor and she passed it on to me. She had similar symptoms you did. She eventually got over it. Hers was caused my trauma in her life.

    To try alternate nostril breathing, sit down in a comfortable place, lengthening your spine and opening your chest.

    Rest your left hand in your lap and raise your right hand. Then, rest the pointer and middle fingers of your right hand on your forehead, in between the eyebrows. Close your eyes, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.

    Use your right thumb to close the right-hand nostril and inhale slowly through the left.
    Pinch your nose closed between your right thumb and ring finger, holding the breath in for a moment.
    Use your right ring finger to close your left nostril and exhale through the right, waiting for a moment before you inhale again.
    Inhale slowly through the right nostril.
    Pinch your nose closed again, pausing for a moment.
    Now, open the left side and exhale, waiting a moment before you inhale again.
    Repeat this cycle of inhaling and exhaling through either nostril up to 10 times. Each cycle should take up to 40 seconds

  • Reply Den |

    I’ve been worried about you for awhile….so much work stress and now your mom moving. I hope you get some answers from your doctor and help with a counselor. Please know you are not alone and we’re all cheering for you!! Take care!

  • Reply Laura |

    I am so sorry to hear this. I don’t have any suggestions but sending good thoughts your way.

  • Reply andree |

    Most employers with a benefits plan have an employee assistance line as well – they can usually get you an appointment with a licensed therapist within 48 hours. I am in Canada, and have used our EAP line a couple of times. I was under the impression it was just ‘over the phone’ help before I used it, but turns out, a lot more is available. Please look into it.

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      Thank you. I looked into my EAP today. I joined a group counselling session beginning next week over my lunch hour!

  • Reply c |

    I’m so sorry to hear this! Anxiety sucks, but I promise you it’s going to be okay. There are plenty of ways to actively manage it! Definitely start with your PCP, but check into therapy too. I’m both in therapy and on a low-dosage anxiety medication and it’s working out really great for me. There is a lot of work and effort that goes into managing it daily, but it was a step I needed to take.

  • Reply Krista |

    Do you have EAP at work? I have this at work (I am in Ontario) and it connected me with a psychotherapist in my area and my work pays for it.

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      I just signed up today! I am joining a group counselling session next week over lunch and they can refer me to private counselling as well.

  • Reply Yuri |

    I had the exact thing happen to me. I got panic attacks from stress and couldn’t drive and could barely go to work. I found an excellent therapist that helped me get over it. Also anti anxiety medications from a psychiatrist or your family doctor can help in the short term just so that you can drive and work and function. I’ve been there and it does get better! Sending you good thoughts. Also yoga classes helped a lot.

  • Reply C@thesingledollar |

    I’m so sorry! This is rough.

    I had a major bout of anxiety earlier this year and found hydroxyzine, which is a non-addictive prescription antihistamine (at least in the US you need a prescription), very helpful for just getting me down from the cycle of panic I was stuck in for a couple of weeks. Therapy definitely! Address all the stressors in your environment, definitely! But in my experience, once your system is as out of whack as a major event like this makes it, it’s really hard to just get out of the loop. To me it feels like all the panic hormones just stay washing around in my body, and I think that’s fairly accurate though I’m sure it could be put in better medical terms 🙂

    So the hydroxyzine, you take a few times a day, and it just calms you down. You can take it for a couple of months; it’s not a long-term solution. But yeah, I found it really helpful to just help me back off the physical ledge (while also addressing things with therapy and in my case eventually a longer-term SSRI, in my case prozac.)

    Good luck!

    • Reply Elizabeth S. |

      I’m glad you mentioned this medication. My doctor and I chatted about meds, and we agreed I should wait til this flu/sinus cold passes and see how I feel. I think a combination of panic-anxiety and flu compounding my feelings. I have been anxious for a long time though, especially with traveling and work. I really want to know about options and I’m terrified of benzos!

  • Reply Alice |

    Please also have your thyroid checked! I just read this account in a facebook support group (for something way different) and remembered your symptoms.

    “…I was terribly sick both physically and mentally. At the beginning of 2016 I started having terrible panic attacks— I thought they were panic attacks anyway. My heart would race and my hands would shake. My legs would be wobbly when I walked. I couldn’t even hold a pen or pencil to write. I was having major emotional meltdowns. Sometimes in public. One day my husband had to come into town and get me from the DMV. The lady had been so rude to me I was crying uncontrollably and I couldn’t drive home. Things got worse. There was a stretch of 3 days that I literally couldn’t get out of bed. My legs couldn’t carry me. At the end of those 3 days my husband carried me out of bed, into the car and to the hospital. I went to the office. We went through all the questions. My blood pressure was high and my pulse was up. The doc wrote me a script for anti depressants and a low dose of sedatives because I also hadn’t slept in days. She was also concerned about my blood pressure etc so she did a full panel of bloodwork. When we got home my husband gave me my medicine, put me on the couch and sat by me. I finally slept. A few hours later the phone rang and it was the doctor. She didn’t want to alarm me but she wanted me to go to the ER and she would meet me. I was nearly in a thyroid storm. My THS was not detectable. I was in an acute state of hyperthyroidism. This was causing my heart race and was never in a resting state. I went on to lose about 10 more pounds but we figured out a treatment plan that I could at least function. I was not a healthy thin at all….”

So, what do you think ?