Asking for medical help takes courage. In fact, getting it may take some time and patience.

Asking for medical help takes courage. In fact, getting it may take some time and patience.

This first-person article is the experience of Adam DeCare who lives in Toronto. For more information on CBC’s First Person Stories, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.

It was late and I should have fallen asleep, but instead I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Every second of the clock ticking felt like an eternity. I was shivering and sweating, alternating between colds and hot flashes. On an ordinary June night in Toronto, bright lights flashed outside my window, indifferent to my pain.

I got out of bed to vomit, hoping it would help me. I thought I was dying. But I was actually having a panic attack.

It could have been any number of things that excited me: the economy, my bank balance, news of a family member’s recent diagnosis of poor health. I’ve struggled with mental illness since I was a kid, and what was somewhat scary when I was a kid was terrifying as an adult. As a child, anxiety and depression seemed to interrupt my life, but as an adult they threaten to destroy it.

Adam Dekar on a childhood ski trip. He was diagnosed with depression at the age of thirteen (Soumis by Adam Dykaar)

This time, I felt like my life was spinning out of control even though I only had symptoms of this six-hour panic attack.

I thought about going to the hospital that night, but I remembered that I had had these attacks before. This is not real, I will not die. However, I knew I needed help, so I decided to crack up and get a doctor’s appointment in the morning.

I’ve been this way before, so I know how it goes. The excitement of finally “doing something” about the problem. Crushing defeat when the medication prescribed to you does not work or has debilitating side effects. I was hoping this time would be different, but the truth is that our healthcare system is broken and navigating this healthcare system can sometimes feel overwhelming.

When the sun came up, I called my agent to cancel my acting job that day, knowing that I probably wouldn’t get any more work from that agency. They are not inclined to call you back if you fail the meeting, no matter how valid the reason may be. But I didn’t know what else to do.

I made an appointment with my family doctor that week and got a referral to be put on a waiting list—a new type of treatment to combat the depression I’ve had since I was a kid. But I was told there would be long wait times, so my doctor prescribed me a new medication as well.

It wasn’t a good solution, but I felt the medication would help me until I got the treatment I wanted. And I discovered that if my anxiety or depression was really bad, I could always go to the emergency room as a last resort.

Four days later, I found myself standing there in the emergency room of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, among a group of people waiting to be screened. Another queue, but at least this time I was able to see and count how many people were in front of me. I had had

Waves of panic attacks for days — longer than ever before — and the drugs weren’t helping.

When I finally got to the front line, the psychiatrist diagnosed my symptoms as a side effect of the medication that should have helped me.

Asking for medical help takes courage. In fact, getting it may take some time and patience.

I was told that I could stop taking the drugs. The same psychiatrist also referred me to another service – panic disorder treatment, which means, you guessed it, another waiting list.

By this point, I had gone to the family doctor, in the emergency room, been put on a waiting list and felt worse than when I started.

Adam Dekar medication for his depression. (Adam Dekar)

I felt so depressed and worried that I would never feel close to “normal” again. I was on waiting lists, but the waiting times lasted several months. Treatments, such as medications, were not guaranteed to work. I felt lost.

A week later, I went back to live with my parents to also be closer to my family doctor in my hometown of Waterloo, Ontario. I started taking another medication and today I am still experiencing the side effects while waiting for my turn with the debilitated mental health infrastructure.

I’ve had panic attacks for a week in a row while my brain has been trying to offset the effects of the new drug, with all the basic symptoms: sweating, a fast heartbeat, and feeling like I’m about to die.

All the doctors and healthcare professionals I have interacted with during this time have been incredibly supportive and kind, but there are many people who are struggling like me and there aren’t enough places to go. My doctor told me I might want to see a psychiatrist, but a referral to a psychiatrist meant another waiting list – this time two to three years, which I didn’t. I feel better. So I declined this offer.

Fortunately, I have friends and family who follow me. I have never felt more fear of the stigma of mental illness than of mental illness itself. I was really relieved to see people send me their best wishes, even if it didn’t shorten the waiting lists or improve the efficacy of the drug. I didn’t feel lonely and depressed when I learned that people keep me in their thoughts and prayers.

They give me strength not to give up – either on the system trying to help me in its beleaguered way, or on myself.

But when you deal with the feelings that are gnawing at you, every external difficulty feels like a mountain. It was like that for me: the queues are daunting, but they are mountains I have to overcome. I really have no choice in this matter, and my life will not resume until I do. I would never do anything on my own, whether it be finding a job, building or maintaining stable relationships, or achieving normal levels of happiness if I didn’t proactively try to help myself, and I had to. . I can’t give up.

I must have hope, because without it I would really have nothing.

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