IMPACT@Work: Sidney S. Billings – Certified Protection Officer

Sidney and I connected through LinkedIn a few months ago over one commonality: we are both passionate about being a Mental Health Advocate, and will have the tough conversations needed to drive change. When I approached him about IMPACT@Work, he was eager and open to share, and genuinely wants to make a change in the world. His story is one that many people share, and it is a story that we need to collectively work to change so that no one else is forced to feel like they have to hide. 

My first experience with negative remarks towards my mental health issues was in 1988 while I was working in Ottawa.
While in hospital to discover exactly the diagnosis of what I had, it was determined at that time I suffered from ADHD. This devastated me. I was scared to tell my employer and when I finally did, the response was less then acceptable.
The management labeled me crazy. Some of my co-workers called me dumb, stupid, and I felt like an outcast. 



The Guilt Trip

In earlier blogs, I’ve talked about my conversion disorder, and how my brain doesn’t process emotions quite like most other people. Suffering from conversion disorder has been a really complicated journey for me, not just because it took forever to figure out what was really happening, and not just because I had excruciating seizures and consistent tremors that exhausted me and made writing notes in class difficult. Conversion disorder has been the most complicated because I have a lot of trouble labeling and understanding how certain situations make me feel. Sometimes when something really exciting happens, I just won’t get that excited, or something not that bothersome makes me very angry. I have to constantly reign my emotions in, or gauge if I’m responding to a situation appropriately while trying to understand what I’m really feeling.

I remember spending a lot of time with my psychiatrist trying to label my emotions for various situations, especially ones that bring about negative emotions. What I immediately noticed, was that my “go-to” emotion for most situations was annoyance. If a friend wouldn’t show up on time for something, I would say I felt annoyed.
Got a bad mark on a test? Annoyed.
Had an argument with a family member? Annoyed.
Ended up with a concussion because of a seizure? Annoyed.
Because most people say situations annoyed them when talking about it to other people, I learned that I must be feeling annoyed too. I couldn’t label what I was really feeling, so I just said I was annoyed. My emotional responses were learned, not felt properly, and it’s hard to interpret other people’s real feelings without being in their head, so naturally I didn’t get the whole picture when I looked to others for my emotions.
After realizing that I couldn’t label every situation as annoying, and discovering I had to actually think about what I was feeling, rather than settling on annoyed, I spent hours thinking about how various situations made me feel. (more…)