I am an Australian woman. I am a university student. I am a dog person. And I am also someone who struggles with severe anxiety and depression.
It took me about a year to come to terms with the fact that the state of my mental health was not – for want of a better term – ‘normal’. During this year I experienced anxiety so debilitating that I would wait in my upstairs bedroom, busting to go to the toilet, until I was certain that no one else was downstairs so I could go to the bathroom in peace. Likewise, my depression was so incapacitating that whenever I came home from somewhere, I hoped desperately that no one else was home because the thought of having to interact with my housemates made me exhausted beyond words. I should point out here that my housemates, the ones I dreaded coming home or downstairs to, were some of my closest friends. Friends, who along with my partner had encouraged me at various points throughout the year to talk to a professional, but for whatever reasons – fear and denial – I ignored them. That is until I stopped finding pleasure in their company.
I saw a psychologist on campus twice before she explained that the on-campus psychological services are only “short term fixes” and recommended I seek further help from my GP. So I went home and made an appointment.
Three weeks later my much-anticipated appointment arrived and I was ready. I was ready to take the first step, I was ready to make progress, and I was ready to finally take control of the dark and debilitating illness that for so long had controlled me. I was not ready, however, for my GP’s response.
I explained my circumstances – how long I had been feeling depressed, the extent to which it was affecting me, and how my recent trips to the psychologist at Uni had brought me to this appointment – and was met with one instruction: “you’ll have to make another appointment, an extended appointment that goes for an hour”. And with that, I was ushered out of the doctor’s office, and her next patient was called in.