The ER Doctor That Saved My Family and My Life

I don’t even remember his name, only the conversation we had in the white walled emergency room.

Dr: “You’ve been to the emerg a lot lately. What is it you think you have?”
Me: “I’ve been researching my latest symptoms and they closely resemble MS.”
Dr: “You don’t have MS. In fact, you don’t have anything that we can see and you’ve had almost every test we can give you.”
Me: “Well, something’s wrong with me!”
Dr: “Have you ever talked to a psychiatrist?”

This moment was my weakest point as a man. I sat in that emergency room, head in my hands, crying, reflecting on everything I had been through and the strain I had put on my family and every aspect of my life. The doctor was extremely respectful of my breakdown and referred me to the hospital’s psychiatry ward. This conversation and subsequent breakdown are the things that changed my life forever, in the best possible way.

I had been to the emergency room about 8 times that year and I had managed to keep the visits a secret from almost everyone. The routine was usually the same, I’d arrive at work, feel a small pain which I would turn into the absolute worst case scenario, panic my way to the emergency room, then wait 6 hours at the hospital only to be told I was fine and be home in time for dinner with nobody suspecting a thing. I kept it from everyone, including my wife, because I was embarrassed of how I was feeling and didn’t want to portray weakness in front of her or my newborn son.

I can only guess the strain I was putting on my wife during this time. I say ‘guess’ because when you are anxious and depressed, the only thing you think about is yourself and how lonely it is to be you. I barely got out of bed and was the opposite of a good father for most of the first year of my son’s life. The fact that my wife even stayed with me is a testament to her sense of love and forgiveness, and I’m grateful to have a second chance.

I had been to about 10 doctors in that year and while I received excellent treatment at every stop, none of them had suggested that it may be a mental issue until this one. As I sat in the waiting room for my first appointment with the psychiatrist, I remember telling myself over and over again, “You are not crazy, you are not crazy”, and as I looked around the room, I realized that the people there were just like me. I didn’t see any of the characters from “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and neither were Annie Wilkes, Tyler Durden or Hannibal Lecter. Everyone there was living a regular, every day life just like I was and that instantly put me at ease.

Over the next few months, I happily attended all of my sessions and even started to make friends with my waiting room mates. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had dreamt it out to be and getting the help I needed at that moment is exactly what I needed to get my life back on track. This is sort of the Coles Notes version of my battle with anxiety but I thought it was important to share, especially for those who are suffering and don’t think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am just one story and I know there are cases far worse than mine, but I faced it head on and came out the other side a better person.

I will probably never see that doctor again but the conversation he initiated that day saved my family and quite possibly my life. If any of what I am writing sounds familiar, please feel free to message me to ask questions and I would be happy to be an ear for you.

33 replies
  1. Brian Stephens
    Brian Stephens says:

    Very brave of you to share this story. This is a subject not often discussed openly, probably due to the “One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest” effect, where people are embarrassed and scared to admit their problems.

    Thanks for sharing and being so open. I hope you are on the path you need for overall health now. I use the standard Irish, age old mental health trick…drink until you can’t remember and it doesn’t matter. I can’t help myself with the jokes.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    This is such an important issue. I hope that you sharing these types of experience will help others who’ve been through this sort of thing and boost awareness of mental health issues.

    Here in the UK, there have been some really interesting features on men and mental health in a weekly BBC Radio 5 programme called ‘Men’s Hour’. I think that it should still be possible to listen to the last two episodes via podcast from abroad. The last programme (1st September) features a few different interview to do with these issues. Here’s the link if it’s of interest:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/menshour

    Well done for writing this post.

    Reply
  3. Christella
    Christella says:

    Thanks for sharing, Chris. Mental Health is something that everyone needs to keep in order, but most put it on my back burner for a variety of reasons. Thank you for sharing as the most valuable way to get more people involved in their own mental health is to keep the conversation going. *huge high five*

    Reply
  4. Olga
    Olga says:

    Wow Chris. Thank you so much for sharing! This is a matter that is close to my heart. My son lost his Dad due the mental ilness and I face this issue with my son on a daily basis. The problem is, he is not willing to see the professional. One day at a time. I might have to take you out for a cofee and ask you some questions. CONGRATULATIONS on your new life!!!!

    Reply
  5. Brandy
    Brandy says:

    You are such a strong, brave individual! Thank you so much for sharing your anxiety story with us. You know that I too suffer from anxiety. And with Blissdom on the horizon, I can feel it creeping back up.

    I really appreciate your insight into what it is like to take that first step. Mental illness is something we have to work on each and everyday. It doesn’t just go away. But there are many ways to cope with it until we feel like we are as close to feeling ourselves as possible.

    Reply
    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      If it makes you feel any better, I am freaking out about Blissdom as well… I have never spoken at a conference before, so I am extra nervous about it. I can’t wait to see you there!

      Reply
  6. LindsayDianne
    LindsayDianne says:

    What’s more incredible, to me, than you speaking out about this, was you having the strength that it takes to be open to the idea that you NEED help in the first place. All I can say is that I understand, and I consider it a great pleasure to know you. <3 Thank you for this post. From the bottom of my self.

    Reply
  7. Gord Black
    Gord Black says:

    Great article of truth. As someone who has been down that road more than once this is good for these people (silent suffers) to learn they are not alone and no they are not going crazy.

    Reply
  8. Christine
    Christine says:

    Chris! As always, your posts are so moving. Thank you for the honesty you bring to your blog and to your readers. You are such a strong and amazing person. I think this matter is something close to everyone’s heart. We have (or someone we love has) gone through this. Thanks again for sharing.

    Reply
  9. jennifer lucas
    jennifer lucas says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Me, well I was a “CUTTER” and overdoser. It took a number of years of doctors and therapy. Now I enjoy every moment I have on this earth.

    Reply
  10. Katia
    Katia says:

    I agree with everyone else who commented on how brave it was of you to share this battle with your readers. I also think it’s brave to admit to yourself that there’s a problem. I think that this is especially difficult for men, because of the values that are instilled in them from early age. I notice how hard it is for my husband to accept physical illness, I would imagine it must be that much more difficult to accept a mental illness diagnosis. So awesome that you did not try to refute the diagnosis, choosing the happiness of your family over denial. Bravo. 🙂

    Reply
    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      Thanks! It was hard to deal with it at first, mostly because of the man thing, but I’m so glad I started talking about it because it really does make it feel better. It was great meeting you this weekend!!

      Reply
  11. Coffee with Julie
    Coffee with Julie says:

    Kudos for sharing your experience and the benefits of getting help for your anxiety. I had my first panic attack a couple of years ago and it wasn’t until this year that I felt I could speak publicly about it. Although I suspect the “manly” thing comes into play, it is still very difficult as a woman to admit that I “can’t handle” something. In the end though, the “handling” part is getting help and taking back control of your own life.

    Reply
  12. AlwaysARedhead
    AlwaysARedhead says:

    First steps are always very scary, sharing is scary too, but I’m glad you did because I’m sure there is someone else out there who is going through the same thing and you may have just helped him/her.

    Reply
  13. Nay.
    Nay. says:

    You’re going to help so many people with this post!

    I have always been very open with my issues with anxiety and post about it frequently.
    I was only in my early twenties when I first realized things weren’t right, and it’s been a long road, but my faith and professionals have helped me along the way.

    I’m so glad and thankful that you have started this new chapter of your journey and that you chose to share it.
    Talking about mental health issues, in whatever way is comfortable for every individual,I personally like to bring humour into it, is the first step in removing the stigma associated with it.

    You’ve done a good thing here.
    A very good thing.

    Reply
    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      Thanks, Nay! I really appreciate the kind words and the fact that you are sharing your story as well. I think the more we talk about it, the more it just becomes a normal conversation to have with people.

      Reply
  14. Julie Auger
    Julie Auger says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story. So many ppl suffer in silence and they need to know that seeking help is not a weakness – it takes lots of strength.

    You’re truly an inspiration!

    🙂

    Reply
  15. Matthew Tully
    Matthew Tully says:

    Hey Chris,

    I’ve been there, and still suffer at times so I know exactly what you are going through. I have other health issues that cause this to become a problem. My reason for commenting is that a few of us hold a twitter chat #EndTheSilence every 2nd and Last Sunday of Every Month @9pm ET on everything Mental Health/Illness and would love if you dropped in to share or even just to say yo and check a few out!. It’s a rough situation, every instance is different but unless you have truly been there you can’t fully understand. Thanks for sharing Buddy! You Rock!

    Reply
    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for the comment. I have been seen the chat going on but it has been at bad times for me so far. I will definitely pop in and say hi real soon. Thanks for the invite.

      Reply
    • Chris Read
      Chris Read says:

      I think it was just talking about it and convincing myself that the anxiety is what was causing the pain. The mind is a funny thing and can do so much to the rest of your body, that you need to get help in order to get well.

      Reply

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