I could spout off numbers and statistics about how many people suffer from mental illness or how “common” it is now, but does that actually change anything? Does that change the stigma associated with mental illnesses? Does that change the fact that people are still embarrassed to admit that they suffer from depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder or any other mental illness? If mental illness is so common, why is it still looked down upon? Why are people still ashamed to admit if they have a mental illness?
Why was I so terrified of being diagnosed as “crazy”?
There are numerous posts about how to handle having a friend with anxiety or if you’re dating someone with anxiety or a list of things you’ll relate to if you have anxiety. But you know what, many people are still ashamed to admit they suffer from anxiety.
I know I am/was.
My mother suffers from a thyroid disorder. Did you know that symptoms of thyroid disorders often appear as the same symptoms that anxiety and depression have? In fact, thyroid disorders are often misdiagnosed as actually being depression.
For years now, I’ve shown similar symptoms to what my mother had before her thyroid disorder was diagnosed. However, when I’d have a doctor test my thyroid, I was always told it was normal, and that kinda angered me. Something was wrong with me. I knew that. So why were they saying my thyroid was normal.
So this year, when I’d just been feeling worse and worse for a while, I went to have my thyroid checked yet again.
And guess what?
I was absolutely heartbroken at being told my thyroid was normal. Because if my thyroid was normal, I had to finally accept the reality that my problem wasn’t thyroid. It was mental illness.
If my thyroid was normal, it meant I was crazy. And I didn’t want to be crazy.
Deciding to go see a psychiatrist felt like admitting defeat.
Prior to my first appointment, I had gone on the website for the office I was visiting, and I completed an ‘anxiety self-assessment’ and a ‘depression self-assessment’. The results really weren’t surprising at all. I ended up rating as having extreme anxiety and moderate depression.
In the past, I’ve suffered from far worse depression than what I deal with now. I’ve been depressed enough in my past that I was suicidal. SUICIDAL. Wow. That’s another pretty scary word. I’m glad I’m not there now. But I’m still not great.
EXTREME ANXIETY. That’s what the self-assessment said I have now. Yup. I’d agree with that.
And then it was time for my first appointment…. And going to that first appointment, I was terrified. I was certain I would be judged by other patients in the waiting room. “What’s wrong with her?” “I bet she’s crazy!”
How crazy was that?
I’m going to a place where everyone else is ALSO seeking help for mental illness, and I’m scared they’re going to be judging me?
Unfortunately, I am no longer seeing the psychiatrist that I started out going to. I’m not currently seeing anyone for help. Sure, she diagnosed me as having “general anxiety disorder.” She completely ignored the symptoms and feelings I spoke about that makes it sound like I also have “social phobia.” Or, I dunno, maybe she only needed to diagnose me with one because of the way doctors and medicine and insurance works.
The doctor I saw did prescribe medication to try to help. Unfortunately, that medication only addressed one symptom of my anxiety, and it did a pretty crappy job of that. So, I quit taking the medication. I felt no different when I took it than when I didn’t. It wasn’t helping.
Finding a mental health professional that helps you is a journey — a journey that I’m still taking. The doctor I originally saw just didn’t seem to listen to everything I was saying. She took one tiny part of how I felt and clung to that. She didn’t seem to see or take in the whole picture.
I am currently entering a phase of transitioning jobs which will also lead to a change in insurance. And for this reason, I’ve put on hold searching out a new doctor to visit. Instead, I’m seeking out alternatives to traditional medicine to try to help. I know this is going to be a long journey, and to the extent that I feel comfortable sharing it with you, I will.
If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness, I’d like to know — was it a scary process for you to be diagnosed? Did you have difficulty finding the right doctor/therapist? What alternatives to traditional medication and therapy have you tried, and how did they work for you?