I had my first visit with a psychiatrist yesterday. I wasn’t terribly anxious about it– having been in counseling on and off for the past five years, I have plenty of practice talking about my problems, my life, my medical history. And although having to start from the beginning (“I had my first episode of major depression when I was 13, in eighth grade…”) over and over is exhausting, it can also be refreshing. Not only does it give a new set of earns to listen, but also a chance to reflect on your history and see what new connections come to mind.
But the longer you’ve been suffering, the longer, more complicated, more convoluted the story gets. For me, as of right now, my story includes chronic depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thinking, disordered eating, insomnia, and self-injury. It takes something out of the ordinary to make me feel happy. I feel “neutral” most of the time. When I’m in a major depressive episode, I feel like I just got hit by a bus. I worry a lot. I get panic attacks that make me feel like I’m drowning. The worst panic attacks happen at night, though, when I’m alone, and, having lost my sense of sight to the darkness, am consumed by thoughts of how tiny I am, how insignificant I am, how I am going to die someday, and how even if God does exist, that eternity is a long time and what if I don’t like Heaven? A lot of days I want to run away, or to die (although I don’t really want to die, just to not live the way I am at the moment). Even though I’m not, I feel fat. I might weigh myself 6 times a day, in secret, obsessively. Some nights I can’t fall asleep because my thoughts are consumed by what I ate that day, trying to decide if it was “okay” or not, and what I will do the next day to “control myself.” There are nights I can’t sleep at all, and have to watch TV to try to escape my incessant thoughts. Sometimes I hurt myself. I dig my fingernails into the skin on my back to try to get out all of the feelings that are controlling me. But then when I realize I’ve done it again, I feel guilty and weak, and am mad that I can’t stop myself. Am I crazy? Maybe. But I’m me, and all of this is part of my story, part of who I am, and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of any of it (most of the time).
Generally, though, I’m fine. I go to college, have good friends, and a loving family. Most days my symptoms are not bad, they’re manageable, and although I’m rarely happy, I’m… doing alright. I’m doing the best I can. And I have so many good things going on in my life.
What finally made me decide to see a psychiatrist was the suicidal thinking. There’s a difference between being suicidal and suicidal thinking. I think about dying a lot. I think about wanting to run away, to leave. I think about how much suffering there is in the world, how much pain I’m in, and how much more pain I’m going to go through in the rest of my life, and wonder if there’s even a point to go on. But I know that I won’t kill myself. I feel very safe with myself, and I don’t actually want to die. I still have some hope. There are good days and loving people that make it all worth it.
But I worry that there will come a day that I’m in so much pain that I’m not thinking straight, and I won’t be able see that little bit of hope anymore. Because when you’re depressed, your thoughts aren’t your own. They might come from your own mind, but they’re not yours. You don’t have control over them. The depression hijacks your thoughts, it takes over and you don’t think the same things you would if you weren’t sick. That idea scares me. And as I get older that idea seems like more of a real possibility, more of a real threat. I’ve been struggling with depression on and off for more than five years, and I worry about some invisible pain-tolerance threshold that I might be approaching. I want to be able to live my life, and see the beauty in the world, and feel happiness the same way I used to. I don’t know if that’s possible, but if there’s something I might be able to do about it, it is definitely worth a try. I will never get back the time I have spent sick and depressed. I don’t really want to keep giving away my life to this illness.