The blog post includes mentions of suicide. Please read with caution if any of this triggers or upsets you.
I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was eight years old. My life was messy and chaotic: divorced parents, custody battles, money troubles, and a mentally ill mother in and out of jail who later attempted suicide. It’s no wonder I was struggling. After my mom’s suicide attempt, my dad was granted full custody which brought some stability to my life.
My stepmom was the first person I ever expressed my suicidal feelings to. I did it nonchalantly while playing Barbies with her. I was unaware it was an abnormal feeling that would alarm her. I soon started seeing a counselor three times a week for about a year. My symptoms dramatically improved. We moved, I attended a new school, and I made friends for the first time in my life. My symptoms were minimal for years. I was able to cope with the tools I had learned. This all changed once I started middle school.
Middle school brought new challenges. A bigger school, higher stress levels, and new expectations. I had none of my friends in any of my classes, I was ridiculously tired, and I no longer enjoyed any aspect of school. My anxiety and depression changed. I was experiencing new symptoms I had no idea how to handle. Vomiting, hyperventilating, headaches. I hid it all for years until finally, my stepmom confronted me about it. She noticed weight loss, how I never had any friends over, and spent all my free time alone in my room.
After talking with her about it, I agreed to see a doctor. I was reluctant, I agreed to it only if she kept it a secret. I was embarrassed and ashamed. My life was perfect, I had no reason to be depressed. I did not yet understand that there did not need to be a reason in order to have depression and that sometimes it is simply a chemical imbalance.
Due to my horrible anxiety, I had not seen a doctor in years. So, my mom found a family doctor in the area and made an appointment for me. I had my mom keep the day of the appointment to herself so I wouldn’t worry as the day drew near. Finally, the day arrived. My mom and I arrived at the doctor’s office, filled out new patient forms, and waited. After what feels like an eternity I am called back, a nurse takes my vitals, and asks what the appointment is for. I can’t respond. My mom speaks up and says, “Anxiety and depression screening.”
Soon after the doctor comes in and asks me many questions about school and life in general. She finds out that I am a straight-A student, my BMI is 21.3, and my teeth are in good shape despite my vomiting. She responds, “Well it looks like the anxiety and depression are doing you good, you should be thankful for it. I really don’t see any reason to treat it. You’re healthy.” She hands me some papers and walks out of the room before me or my stepmom can respond. I instantly begin crying, my mother reassures me that she’s wrong and I never have to come back to this provider again. I leave feeling embarrassed, alone, and worse than before. It will be another two years before I finally get the treatment I need.
Two years later I finally work up the courage to try again. I look for providers myself. I find one with great reviews on every site I could find. I make the appointment and take my mom with me for support. It was much different this time. I was met with a provider who was supportive, encouraging, kind, and understanding. She reassured me that things would get better and that treating my depression would not somehow make me start failing school. She answered all of my questions and provided me a lot of information on anxiety and depression. She explained brain chemicals I had never heard of like serotonin and dopamine. She reassured me that my depression was not caused by me being ungrateful or anything of that nature and that I had no reason to feel guilt or shame for needing treatment. She wanted me to start taking medications and seeing a therapist right away. She referred me to a therapist who specialized in treating anxiety disorders along with depression. I was too afraid to start an SSRI, so she gave me something that would help with my nausea and vomiting for the time being. Life was finally about to improve and I was going to be able to enjoy my final years of high school.
What I learned from this ordeal is to not give up. If you have a bad experience, don’t wait, and find another provider right away. I sincerely wish I had not spent those two years of my life puking every morning before school, constantly worrying where a bathroom or trashcan was, and crying myself to sleep every night. I wish I had been able to enjoy those years. You deserve to be treated for your illness and you shouldn’t prolong your suffering because of one bad provider. Do not let anyone sabotage your recovery.
Have you ever spoken to a provider about your mental health? How did they react? What experiences have you had when talking to doctors?