When I arrived at the psychiatrist’s office I was jumpy and in tears. I was scared. I didn’t want the stigma of being hospitalized for mental illness but I knew I was in crisis. I explained to the doctor all the things I had been too scared to tell anyone else ever. I spilled the beans because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could make it on my own. I knew I was sick and I had to tell someone.
I thought I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I felt like a weirdo telling my story but I did it in an effort to save myself. I told her everything. I told her how for weeks on end I had not eaten, slept, or studied because I was in a panic over death. I told her that I didn’t understand the point of life since for all eternity there would be nothing. I told her that I looked at other people and wondered how they did it. How did they find life meaningful when in the end there would just be darkness? I told her that I had been having episodes like this since I was pregnant with my son at age 13. These episodes lasted months at a time. I told her I was so scared.
She explained that the symptoms I was having were caused by depression and anxiety. She said that I did not have OCD and that she would be able to help me feel better soon. She prescribed me Ativan and Prozac.
She also asked me if I had ever been held against my will as a child. She explained that the symptoms I was displaying were characteristic of a child who had experienced such traumatizing events. I was floored. My first day meeting this doctor and she had me pegged. I was indeed held against my will as a child.
As a youngster my mother kept me locked in a bedroom with her every single afternoon into evening. Her reason was that she didn’t want me to disturb the rest of our family members. I remember sobbing and begging her to let me out night after night. I even remember crying about death then. At 4 years old I used to cry myself to sleep every night telling my mom that I didn’t want to die. No one ever took me for help. This was never talked about. Only as an adult did I recognize how developmentally inappropriate it was.
I was relieved that there was some explanation for what I was going through. The Ativan the doctor prescribed started helping immediately. Sometimes it would put me right to sleep but I didn’t mind. I hadn’t slept in months. It took longer for the Prozac to work but after a few weeks it did and I was able to reduce the amount of Ativan I needed.
After many visits with the psychiatrist she diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from traumas I had suffered as a child, including being locked in that bedroom. She also diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression and a Dissociative Disorder. I disagreed with the Dissociative Disorder. I kept telling her that I did not have multiple personalities. I really struggled with accepting Dissociative Disorder as a condition of mine. The doctor explained that there is a spectrum of dissociation and I was not at either end but somewhere in the middle. I began to recognize that when the anxiety and depression get really bad I do indeed dissociate. I work hard today on keeping myself present in the current moment and time.
It was 16 years ago that I first walked into that psychiatrist’s office and I have gone in and out of therapy and on and off medication many times. I know for a fact that Prozac fixes whatever is wrong in my brain. When I am on Prozac I feel like what I imagine a well person must feel like. I am not jumpy. I am not scared. I cannot dissociate, even if I try.
I wish that I could tell you that I am medicated today. That I don’t struggle on a daily basis to keep up on day to day activities. However, that would be a lie. I stopped taking my SSRI a few months ago as the sexual side effects were becoming too much for me to bear. I wanted to experience sex the way unmedicated people do. I should not have to trade in a healthy sex life for mental health.
Right now I am experimenting with daily aerobic activity as a treatment for my anxiety and depression. It seems to be helping- but I know that I live with mental illness and eventually I will be back to the medication. This is just a little hiatus.
I am finding some relief in being open and honest with those around me. I am becoming comfortable with knowing my limits and stating when I become “overwhelmed” as I often do. I no longer feel guilt when I remove myself from a situation which triggers anxiety and panic. Blogging is helping me to recognize these feelings.
I hope that my story helps you to feel less alone. I never talk about the dissociation and it was freeing to discuss it here. Thanks for listening.