April 25th, 2018: Morning.
It was a normal Spring-like day: rainy, gloomy, humid, yet somewhat chilly enough for a jacket. I woke up that morning feeling a lot like the weather in many ways, but I don’t think the weather could feel a sense of anxiousness like I did. I woke up worried more than anything. I had a busy day ahead of me: I had a final draft of my Masters Thesis to be revised and ready for publication, I had to mentally prepare myself for a long night of class the following night, and just in a little over an hour, I had an appointment I was not ready for.
Two weeks prior to this day, I had a regular doctor’s appointment. I felt regular, I was okay at the moment, but something kept bothering me. I felt like I wasn’t being honest with my doctor, and most importantly to myself. When the dreaded question of “have you’ve been depressed within the last two weeks?” finally was asked, I finally put it out into the universe.
“Yes. I’ve been more sad and anxious than ever before, and I would like to seek therapy for it.”
Two weeks later on this exact day was finally the day I’d start. I felt weak that morning. I felt like I gave up on trying to help myself out of this funk. I didn’t feel like myself anymore; it felt like I was handing over my body to some professional in hopes they “cure” me and make me feel happy and bubbly all over again. I had second doubts about going to this first meeting, but I got myself dressed, I put my jacket on, took an umbrella, and left the house with my mother to go to my very first meeting, or the first initial step of feeling better.
The Waiting Room.
The first floor of the building felt like a movie set in the 1970’s. I felt myself closing in on the muted-colored walls and brown, speckled floor. It was crowded with rows and rows of patients and groups waiting for group therapy discussions. I could see the discomfort in my mother’s face and the shock over the fact that our regular doctor’s office was much more modern and bright in terms of lighting. I got handed a clipboard of the usual registration questions you’re asked: name, date of birth, address, family household, allergies, list of medications, and so on. Having to answer these questions made me even more nervous to go forward with this. I wasn’t ready. I felt myself in that waiting room slowly shutting down. I wasn’t ready to bring up things that I’ve repressed in my memory for months, even years on end. What does my family think about the thought of me bringing up family secrets? What does my partner think about me being in a mental health environment? Am I considered weak? After some time passed by, a social worker came up to me and said, “Hi, are you Elizabeth?”, which then I replied, “Yes.” She asked me to go upstairs with her as my mother sat in the waiting room, waiting for me to come back. As the elevator came back down to pick those waiting at the first floor up, I felt my legs getting shaky.
I realized I began doing this thing I normally do when I’m painfully shy and nervous when talking to people I’m not comfortable with: I began squeezing my damn fingers together until they turned purple-y red. She introduces herself as Allison, which I was grateful that she was a female social worker because I wasn’t comfortable talking about my problems to a guy. She pulls up a long document of boxes and rows for words and begins to ask me some questions. They start off as being basic and non-triggering: what am I studying in grad school, am I in a relationship, blah blah blah, and so on. I guess they ask you the easy questions first to get you comfortable talking, so after explaining my basics for her to get a better understanding of me, the heavy-hitters begin to come and I find myself taking more time to answer them.
- “Was there any point in your life where you had suicidal tendencies or thoughts?” “Yes.”
- “Did you have a plan?” “If you count thinking about scenarios like getting hit by a car, then I guess yes. But in terms of taking pills or more common methods, then no.”
- “Can you tell me more about this time in your life? What was happening?”
I was brought back to those specific moments, ones that I haven’t verbally spoken about fully in detail in what seemed like years. I kept ending every sentence with “but I don’t think about that time anymore” or “it doesn’t affect me anymore” when clearly it’s visible that I’m lying through my teeth. Yeah, it doesn’t interfere with my daily living, but it played a major role in why I function the way I function. It’s a part of the snowball that began to roll and roll into this exact moment all these years. And I should’ve realized that the moment I began to pretend that part of my life didn’t exist anymore.
The interview became heavier and heavier as time passed by, and I was now feeling the knot in my throat and trying immensely hard to hold back from crying. I felt raw, I felt stripped, I felt exposed, and I felt vulnerable. I felt as delicate as glass. I felt easily torn like a piece of paper. I had admitted things into the universe that I repressed in my mind for so long.
“What made you want to seek therapy?”
I’ve felt more disconnected from myself more than ever in my life. I don’t know who I am anymore, I don’t know what I am to people, I don’t know where I belong in life. I graduate a month from now, and I’m scared. I’m afraid of everything that’s to come to the point where I’m not even happy that I’m graduating. I never felt this distant from myself and from those I care about most ever in my life, and I feel like it’s gradually getting worse.
After a while, the words just felt empty. They had no meaning. They had no depth in them. They felt loose and liquified, like vomit. I was done talking for the day, and I needed a breather. I think Allison sensed that, and she automatically said the interview was done. She showed me my rights as a patient, and she told me that in a week or so, I’d be getting a phone call from the therapist that is assigned to me, and from there the therapy process begins.
The elevator doors open and I immediately see my mother in the same spot she was in before, but the first floor is now noticeably emptier than it was before. I had to make an appointment for the second part of the evaluation, which was the official diagnosis with my assigned psychiatrist. That wasn’t going to be until two months later: after grad school ends, after I graduate, after everything I was anxious about should be finished. I sucked it up and made the appointment anyway. After we left the building, my mother asked me what did I say to the social worker in the interview. Of course, I said nothing and just went on with my day.
September 25th, 2018: Morning.
As I’m reviewing this before publication at noon, I realize just how much progress I’ve made since then. Since then, I’ve seen my therapist once a week, I’ve seen my psychiatrist once a month, I’ve been on anxiety medication since July, and I’ve seen an immense change in how I function. I’ve been able to get closer to the people I loved most after knowing what I am working with. I’ve been able to be more aware of my behavior and actions towards things and not be so afraid or ashamed to show my anxiety to the world. I am more vocal about how I feel, I am becoming more assertive with my anxiety disorder, and I am able to make steps moving forward in the progress of getting a career. Five months ago, I was a struggling grad student, and five months later I am now a TA for a graduate class in preparation for teaching my own college course in the future. I now have a professional who I trust enough to share and be honest about myself with in hopes of getting a better understanding of myself and gaining a better solution into overcoming certain obstacles. Five months later and I know I’m not completely cured, nor do I believe I’ll ever be knowing the severity of my social anxiety, but I am now in a better headspace than I was entering this world of therapy five months ago.
Five months later, I don’t repress uncomfortable thoughts or memories as I used to. I now discuss them in therapy.