Hey. Before I begin my rant I want to warn you that this is going to be very personal. Long and full of trigger warnings such as mental illness, depression, anxiety, and more so if you’re not comfortable reading about such topics this is definitely NO for you.
If you’re someone like I was, struggling with something you can’t quite identify, feeling just plainly bad, feeling lonely cuz no one could possibly understand what you’re going through, then I’m so sorry this happen to you.
And well how could you even explain yourself when you simply don’t know what the hell is going on.
I feel you. Trust me.
I’ve spent 6 months. 6 worst months of my life barely sleeping, barely breathing, in constant pain, in constant fear for my life. I felt like I would die any minute.
My friends and family stopped taking me seriously after a while and I really can’t blame them even though that made me feel like even bigger shit.
I kept crying all the time. I was canceling on every plan I had just because “what if I die” (sounds ridiculous now but I was paralyzed by fear) I had no one to turn to – I tried.
I complained to my family my friends but let’s face it we’re talking about 6 months of my complaining. Of course, they would get sick of me so overtime when I felt particularly bad, like my heart was about to stop I just kept it all inside. Stuck on the verge of “omg I don’t want to die” and “omg please let me die and make it stop”
I tried to help myself on my own.
I meditated. I took pills. I visited altogether 8 different doctors – all with the same answer – I’m healthy.
Well fuck me cuz I don’t feel healthy Susan.
So doctors were no-no. Friends were no-no. Family were a no-no. Pills were no longer helping be. I screwed on school cuz I would have terrible panic attacks in there. Going to the bathroom becomes a daily challenge and talking to my roommate was jutted too much-wasted energy I could use on staying alive instead.
I spend almost 6 months “lying” (well more like sitting cuz I had this paranoid fear that if I lie down I would choke so I “slept” with 4 pillows so I was practically half-sitting) in my bed watching one comedy show after another crying and feeling helpless.
What can I say – fun times.
I might seem unfair to my friends and family now but honestly, there is just so much “get over yourself” “stop thinking about it” “it’s all in your head” “it’s not real” “you’re overeating” “people have it much worse than you” “you’re not thinking about your family/friends” until you realize you are completely alone in this.
I googled so much, I tried to figure out what was happening to me, I was all I’ve got, everyone that cared.
I was quite certain I was crazy.
I was allegedly healthy. I was just in constant pain. My chest hurt with every breath I took. I was dizzy all the time. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t talk – like I said – totally healthy.
What I so desperately needed at that time was someone who would tell me I’m not crazy and someone to say they believe me.
That this happened to them. What to do next and what to expect.
So this is the reason why I am writing this article down. If you are going to the same stuff I did just hang in there (cheesy I know) it will get so much better (cheesy) and here is what to do.
After spending hours on the Internet I realized I would need psychiatric help. Admitting that was the hardest step. It took all the courage I had left to admit such a thing. As from when I was little I was told to be strong. Fearless. To be a good example to my younger sisters and to actually say out loud that I need psychiatric help and I might be dealing with mental illness took weeks.
My courage crumbled when I decided to tell my mum about my decision to go to a psychiatrist.
Her reaction was very negative. She started yelling at me that I just need to get over myself and that psychiatrists are for people who are crazy and I am not.
Rought I know but now I try to look at this situation from my mother’s point of view.
Your first-born comes to you and tells you that she’s not happy with her life. She wants to see a psychiatrist. It must have been hard for my mum to hear that as she might assume it was her fault. That she made some mistakes raising me (which of course she did being a parent does not come with a manual). Considering a lot of her family members kill themselves or spend some time at psychiatric themselves it must have been hard to realize she’ll have to deal with it again.
So I didn’t search for help anymore. Instead, I stayed in my misery for several more weeks until I figured out that I have to go to the doctors or I would die. Probably by my own hand.
I searched for the closest one in my hometown. I spend a few nights before my visit wide awake just wondering and stressing about what’s gonna happened there.
I was so afraid of the unknown.
The morning I was supposed to go there I got dressed and went to psychiatric. But right outside the doctor’s door were standing this woman. Clearly talking to herself and swinging from right to left.
That’s when it hit me – my mum was right. I don’t need this kind of help. There are people like this woman who actually need psychiatrist help and not me.
I went home.
Again my misery prolonged for another week. I went there again. Actually sat in the waiting room but when it was my turn and I handed my insurance card to the nurse she told me the doctor does not have a contract with this insurance company. I would have to pay for the whole treatment myself. That was something I could not afford.
Thankfully she recommended me another doctor that would take me.
So I went to this other psychiatrist but she had a full schedule so I made an appointment for next month (!) The only thing that kept me going for the whole month was the idea of getting better.
I finally had tiny hope someone would care and help me.
I spent this month in fear of the therapy itself.
I imagined it would be just like in the movies where I would lie on the couch and talk about my problems and my childhood.
What would I tell her?
I had literally no idea why is this happening to me or what caused it. I just wished someone would tell me how does psychiatric session looks like in reality so I could brace myself for what was coming.
When I made my appointment I got this questionnaire called Zungs questionnaire with 20 questions I was supposed to answers with numbers 1-4 meaning “never or rarely” “sometimes” “often” and “always“.
It was great cuz at least I know what we’ll be discussing at our session and I could think about it and prepare.
Here I’m gonna translate the questions and my answers.
1.I am sad or desolate – This was one of the hardest questions cuz most of the time I was just numb. I could lie in a bed staring on the wall and hours could pass without me even noticing. Otherwise there would be times where I would start crying in the middle of a store for no reason whatsoever. = often
2.I feel best in the morning – Mornings were ok for me, the higher hour and closes to night the bigger my fear would become. I hated the nigh. I was paralyzed by fear every night and I couldn’t wait for morning to come so my answer to this was = always
3.There are times when I feel like crying – no reason. My body just commands me to cry = often
4.I have difficulties sleeping at night – it doesn’t matter if you have trouble falling asleep, you wake up in the middle of the night several times or wake up too early – or in my case all of the above = always
5.I eat the same as before (amount) – I had difficulties finishing half of the plate = never
6.Sexual life or sexual thought still brings me pleasure – I got quite surprised by this question, cuz only when I read it I realized I haven’t thought about sex this whole time so =rarely
7. I noticed I lost weight – everyone around me was so happy with my new body so yes I lost some weight and I gained it all back when I got better (and my family made sure I know I looked better when I was severely depressed) = often
8. I have troubles with constipation – I didn’t eat much so my body functions were disrupted as well = sometimes
9.I have strong feelings of fast heartbeat – I was always aware of my own heart and most of the time I stayed focused on it. Listening if it’s beating as it should. Every missed beat would freak me out and my fear caused my heartbeat was fast most of the day= always
10.I get tired without apparent reason – reason being taking a shower or talking to a friend = always
11.I can think straight as usual – the constant confusion and “not knowing” was making it so hard for me to function properly = never
12.I can handle same tasks as before – even shopping took hours of mental preparation because “what if..?” = never
13.I feel nervous and I can’t stay still – I got to keep moving. Whenever it’s bumping my leg up and down or scratching myself all over leaving me with so many scars till this day = always
14. I am full of hope to the future – lol – I can’t see any future so = never
15. I feel more irritated than before – loud noises and ridiculous topics, “get over it” makes me want to scream = always
16.I can make decisions easily – no way. I never felt so helpless in my life and I never truly experienced the concept of “not knowing” like back then = never
17.I feel useful and needed – not for anyone. I didn’t do anything at all except watching tv shows and crying = never
18. I live full life – lol =never
19. I feel like it would be better for my closed ones if I died – they would not have to deal with my constant complaining. They wouldn’t have to worry what was wrong with me they could go on with their lives like nothing happened. The complication in their life (me) would be gone = always
20.I enjoy the same things as before – reading books, tv shows, drawing, friends – nothing could make me feel anything anymore =never
After these 20 questions, the doctor would count my answers and make a preliminary decision if I am suffering from depression or not. (well you don’t have to be a doctor to guess from my answers that I truly was depressed)
So how does my psychiatric session looked like:
It took exactly 45 minutes. I brought the doctor the questionnaire, my medical record with all of the tests and doctors appointments I already had considering my issues like neurology, cardiology, 2 different rehabilitation therapy, all of the emergency medical records I visited over the past few months.
We started with my simple explanation of my issues as to what brings me there.
She asked me if it was my decision to come to her. Asked me about my medical record. My family’s medical record and if someone in my family was dealing with any mental illness.
Asked me about my chest pains. If it happens only at night. What usually triggers them. How do I ease them? What king of mediations I took. What doctors have I visited and she was so surprised not one of the doctors I visited recommended me a psychiatrist as I was clearly dealing with sickness in her field of study.
I was not sitting on a couch but a simple chair right in front of the doctor like in any other doctor ambulance before.
She was typing everything I told her to the computer.
We took a look at the questionnaire and I told her everything I told you guys.
The only personal question she asked me was what I do, what I study, and how do I like it.
No childhood memories or digging into my past as I was expecting. It was all strictly on the medical side of the issue. Then she make some physical examinations. Tested my reflexes. My sight and other neurological tests that took like 5 minutes to make sure I react normally to stimulus and I did.
One surprising question she asked me was to name her three things that made me happy over the last 3 months.
I was shocked because I couldn’t think of anything at that moment. I remembered that Game of Thrones last season was coming up that month so I was feeling small excitement about that but besides that nothing.
After some more talking and her typing it all down she told me her outcome.
I was dealing with panic disorder and severe depression.
She asked me if I googled something about it on the internet and I told her I did so I had an idea as to what she was talking about. She explained the brain process of the disease to me and gave me some documents to read at home about what I was dealing with.
She prescribed antidepressants to me and explained the dosage as at first few days I needed to take just half of the pill to slowly prepare my brain for the therapy and later on the whole pill.
I agreed to come to another session next month.
She warned me that few first weeks won’t be pretty.
That I’ll still have to deal with the same issues and it might even get stronger at the begging of therapy. What I really appreciated as at least I know what was going to happen and I knew it would pass soon.
She also asked me if I was thinking about suicide.
My immediate answer was, to tell the truth. She’s a doctor and I need help.
So I say yes.
But right after I said it out loud I felt such shame I had to add “but I didn’t have any plan or anything” just to justify and clarify that I’m not that kind of person – even though we already figured that I in fact am that kind of person.
And that was it. The whole scary psychiatric therapy I was so afraid. It was nothing more but another doctor. Another discussion a few tests and finally a solution.
My mum was not happy about my diagnose.
When I told her I was severely depressed she laughed to my face. Started screaming that I am just overreacting and making it up. That I have no idea what real depression looks like. Started talking shit about the doctor and then stormed out. Just what I needed.
Later on, she tried to convince me (and she’s not ok with it to this day) that I don’t need the pills. That she’s not gonna buy them for me. She works in pharmacy so she just didn’t want me to pick them up there so all of her colleagues would know her daughter is psycho.
I tried to explain to my mum and dad what my depression really meant but they refused to listen.
So I left them the documents doctor left me but they did not read it.
You just can’t educate someone if they don’t want to be educated.
So I pick up my own pills at different pharmacies. Make my own doctor appointments and plainly not talk about it with my parents. My sisters were more open-minded and asked questions and even joked about it what was great.
I keep going to check-ups. I just sit in the doctor’s office and she usually asks me how I’m doing. If there are any adverse effects of the pills. I always tell her I feel great. Better than ever. She prescribe me more pills and I make appointments for another session.
I’ve been on medications for over a year now and I have truly never felt better.
I made some life changes. I quit university. I moved to Prague. Started working in a pharmacy. Started blogging more, traveling more and I can’t believe how awesome my life is now.
If you would tell me a year ago that I would not only be alive but happy I would laugh to your face.
My parents, even unwillingly, must admit that I got better. Therapy and pills work.
I was actually mentally ill and they didn’t make it easy for me. They got used to it a little by now. My dad even picks up my prescriptions when I’m out-of-state and brings them to my mom’s pharmacy and pick it up for me.
All of my friends noticed how happier and healthier I look now.
I don’t mind talking about it now cuz if only someone talked about it back then I would not have to suffer for 6 months till I started dealing with my mental illness.
My friends and family might feel triggered by this article (well they don’t really read any of my stuff) there are no hard feelings. They did what they thought was best in the situation and I can’t blame them.
I blame the mental health stigma.
People feel awkward. Uncomfortable talking about their brain being sick. People don’t want to hear about it. It’s easier to joke about killing themselves than to say “hey I’ve been feeling really hopeless lately and I was thinking about ending my life”
So if you’re dealing with mental illness, don’t know how to ask for help, who to ask, have family and friends that are sportive I have bad and good news for you.
The Bad is that you’re gonna have to make it on your own.
Good – you will feel unbelievably proud of yourself once you get better.
Curing your brain is not an overnight deal.
It took me a least 3 months on medications to realize I don’t feel constant pain anymore. Occasional panic attack. Dizziness. Cry.
It took me over a year to feel normal.
To enjoy simple things. To deal with stuff with a clear head. Making decisions never felt better. To enjoy food. To fall asleep a few minutes after going to bed. Don’t panic every time you’re met with a new situation or person. Simply not thinking about the worst scenario possible.
Right now I feel like everything that happened to me and everything I went through was some sort of out-of-body experience.
I can’ relate. I don’t understand the choices I made. The feelings I felt.
But I’ll never forget that it was real. It all made sense at that time.
It made me who I am today, sure but if I could have avoided it I would.
So for the love of God let’s talk about it.
Mental illness, depression, anxiety, suicide, panic disorder and many more are not cursed or forbidden words so why do we act like they are?
Share your experiences. Talk about it. You never know who just might need to hear they are not alone in their struggles. Give hope. Explain what happened to you when you’re ready to share your story.
There might be someone out there crying in the middle of the night wondering what is wrong with them and searching for an answer online. Let them know they are not alone and there is a way out.
Let’s talk bout it. If you have a similar story as mine please share it with the rest of us in the comments. I’m sure psychiatric therapy looks different in some other countries and I’m sure people would like to hear what to expect from a psychiatric visits.
It truly sucks but remember it’s all just temporary.
Thank you so much for your attention