Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Art of Perseverance

I sneak a look at the doctor's pad while he is out of the room. "Depressive disorder," it reads, from five years ago, when Dave died. Below that, two other diagnoses - something about back pain & allergies, no big surprises there. And today, a new one has appeared: "Generalized Anxiety Disorder," this one says. It isn't a surprise, but it takes me by surprise all the same, seeing it attached to my name & highlighted in yellow.

I'd cried when I started talking to the doctor, the one I'd waited three years to come back to because no doctor in D.C. compared or made me feel comfortable enough. I answer "yes" to all of his questions: Do you get teary like this a lot? Well, yes, but doesn't everyone? Are you having trouble sleeping? Yes, but it's probably my own fault for not getting in bed sooner. Do you feel stressed out? Yes, all the time, & I don't even have a job! Are you afraid of making big decisions? Yes. Oh, God, yes. Do you lash out at people you love? That, too. And so on. I tell him about the dizzy spells & the crying jags & my sudden paralyzing fear of the future.

"It's chemical," he assures me, "And genetic." He asks about my father: "Did he struggle with depression or anxiety?" No. No, I don't think so, but what do I know? There are more questions: What about my grandparents? Aunts, uncles, cousins? I find myself wanting to defend my family, to say that it's not their fault that I'm this way. That they are normal & that it's only me who is not.

There are more questions. There are tests. There are kind words of encouragement & reassurance. And then he writes me a party pack of prescriptions: one for anxiety and depression & a temporary one to help me normalize my sleeping schedule. A face wash & a night cream to clear up the skin problems he says are likely an effect of an increase in anxiety. There's another, too, the crowning jewel: a small slip of paper with the name & phone number of a therapist, someone to help me "smooth things out." Drugs & hugs, a combination deal.

I should feel better. This is a relief, isn't it? There are names for these things, for these problems, & there are ways to overcome them. I've spent years arguing that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of, that they're chemical & genetic, your body's fault & not your brain's, just like any other disease, but amplified by your environment & the circumstances of your life. Yet here I am, newly diagnosed - newly re-diagnosed - asking for help because I can't get through it through sheer perseverance alone. Feeling defective & damaged & ultimately blaming myself instead of my body.

I don't feel depressed. I just feel scared. And even when I'm scared, I'm happy. This isn't like it was before, with all the dark & twisty parts. My life feels beautiful, even when it's a mess. I just feel scared - scared that I won't make the right decisions, scared that I'll squander what I've been given, scared that I'll fail at adulthood. I look at the diagnosis on the small slip of paper in my hands, & my heart sinks every time I read the words on it: "Anxiety/depression." Anxiety, maybe. But depression: I don't have that, not anymore. Do I?

On the way home, I stop by the cemetery to talk to him. I haven't been in months, not since early spring. I brush the snow off of his grave to find fresh flowers underneath, preserved in a sheet of ice.  Like always, I promise both of us that I will never be him. That I will try harder.  That I will always - yes, always - be OK.

I stop crying. I get back in my car. I call my new therapist & I fill my new prescriptions & I restart my life. Ready, set, keep going.

31 comments:

justatitch said...

I hope this helps. I've been in that office, filled those prescriptions, and the seven years (so far!) of therapy I've done saved my life.

Here's to a new, healthy beginning. Lots of love, lady.

Lacey Bean said...

I feel like it could have been me writing this post. It's been on my "to-do" list go to see my doctor about all these feelings and problems I've been having... but I need to stop thinking "to-do" and just "do". You're brave for stepping up and taking care of yourself. I hope its the start of something fresh for you. Hopefully I'll be there soon myself.

Hugs.

Kellybea14 said...

you pretty much rattled off the way I feel about myself. I attribute a lot of it to law school, stress, etc. I haven't felt strongly enough to need to get medication [although I did go to some therapy sessions last year, even making the appointment and feeling like I was working towards something helped]..

Also, and this may not be the case for you, my birth control I was on did a number on me. An already anxious person, I was an absolute wreck. I made the choice to go off it, and my boyfriend told me there's a noticeable difference in the way I act.

the point being you recognize a need to do something, which is huge and half the battle. Hopefully it helps!

Stephanie M said...

anxiety sucks. and it's hard. and ridiculous and stupid. medicine was only a short term fix for me, but i learned how to cope on my own. i know you can get there! totally here if you need to talk. <3

Sara said...

I thought this post was beautiful. I hope you feel better. Adulthood really is pretty scary.

Good Girl Gone Blog said...

Oh Kate, thanks for sharing this. I hope you're doing better- it's always best to get a diagnosis, because then you can move forward.

San said...

Mental health is a REAL issue. A medical issue (like any other physical illness!) that needs to be addressed. It's nothing to be ashamed of.
I am so glad you're getting help. The fact that your high school boyfriend hung yourself makes me terribly, terribly sad, for both you and him!

Many hugs.

suki said...

You're not alone! Do you follow Kyla Roma? http://www.kylaroma.com/2010/11/the-worry-the-wait-and-a-diagnosis/

And now that you know what's up, you can restart! :)

San said...

OMG, I meant hung HIMself, of course. Correct that, please?!

The Owl Diary said...

I feel like this sounds so much like me. I'm so proud of you for getting help. & Know that you are not alone. *big hugs*

Anonymous said...

You're amazing. That's all.

Van said...

I think we're all there with you. Lost, confused, will we make it, what will we do?

I never saw pills and therapists as the answer though. I get therapy from working on projects I like (like blogging- even though it brings stress it still takes the mind off bigger problems), therapy from interacting with like-minded individuals, therapy by engaging in activities I love (art, gardening, crafts, writing, marketing, etc.)

My next step is working on health. I'm going to set a bedtime (they say the lack of sleep is the cause of all the big problems like depression, weight-gain, bad skin) eating more vegetables (baby steps!), and the hardest part, fitting in more physical activity for the endorphin high.

We have never formally met but I'm here reading your work and your life, taking in the piece of your soul that you shared. I hope that is some kind of therapy or relief for you :)

Brent said...

I can only speak from my own experience - but I know the meds and therapy I got (and still get) for my anxiety made a huge difference in my life. Good luck with everything...hopefully, this will help you as much as it did me.

And anxiety and depression are essentially the same issue in the brain according to my psychiatrist - two sides of the same coin so to speak. So they treat them very similarly even though the symptoms that manifest are very different.

anonymous said...

I've been in counseling for over a decade. It saved my life.

Liz said...

This is beautiful and it definitely moved something in me, Katie. Your story is inspiring. Lots of love to you.

Artofobsv said...

Diagnosis, then tears, then lift your head and move forward...shows great strength. Sending you lots of good thoughts.

Dena said...

Having spent 3 years of my life on meds to battle postpartum depression left me feeling like I couldn't function without the pills. I've been off of them for 6 years now and while I'm grateful for them, I am happy to be rid of them. That just goes to show you that it does get better.

skinny_dip said...

I'm pretty sure I have some form of anxiety, although I have never been formally diagnosed. I have some of the same symptoms. They come and go but, like you I don't feel like I am "depressed". Most of the time I think my life is pretty amazing (I've never liked that anxiety and depression are lumped together). I think "scared" is a much better way to describe how I feel. I kind of feel like I am paralyzed and unable to move forward into the future. I really hope talking to someone helps. I am considering doing the same in the new year. *hugs*

Dream In Grey said...

The hardest step is going to that Dr's in the first place so well done for doing that and here's to getting better for good x

Jacky {The Sweetest Petunia} said...

{{hugs}} to you, sweetie - we're here for you!

emmysuh said...

What a beautiful and honest entry. So glad you found a doctor willing to help you, sometimes it can be hard to convince them. I hope the next few months bring healing and peace to you!

Vicki said...

Such brave and elegant writing. Don't forget to stay closer to the people you love. They'll help you.

Stephany said...

The scariest part about this post is that I read it, nod my head, and tear up. Because what you just described? Is exactly how I'm feeling now.

Oy.

Glad you're getting help, love. And thanks so much for writing about this.

Kristin & Megan said...

You're very brave doll...very brave!

Nora_L said...

I love this post, for all its honesty, its openness, for you facing something head on. Thank you for sharing. <3.

sameve said...

Thank you for writing this post. I know it's not easy to bear your soul to the world, especially about such a personal issue. I've written about my anxiety too, and I found that I wasn't alone. You're not either, and it will get better. Hugs from New York!

screamingnspace said...

exactly how I felt about it too. Makes me consider getting help even more.

anonymous said...

And...we Press on Regardless... because people we loved didn't get to experience life's journey to the fullest. Very proud of your for facing this head on & writing about it so eloquently. ilu

Jaclyn said...

((hug))

terra said...

This post, more than any other you've written so far, makes me sad that I didn't get to meet you in real life when you lived just two hours north of me. There is so much of my own feeling in this post that it's almost eerie and it just shows me, again, that our lives have a lot of parallels.

{big, giant internet hugs!!}

graceelena said...

*hug* Recognizing and dealing with it puts you a step ahead. I have someone in my life that does not recognize there is a problem and it makes it that much harder for him and for us.

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