I’ve bounced in and out of therapy since I was in high school. I had a lot of one-time-only appointments with professionals who probably could have helped me if I had let them. In high school, I went to the school counsellor once because a teacher was worried about me. I went to a nutritionist once in college after I let it slip to a therapist that I had been forcing myself to throw up.
I did try to stick with therapy, once. I sought it out again in high school when I noticed I was going through something more intense than teenage angst. I met with her every couple of months over the span of two years.
I went to college and was back in a deep depression within less than a year. I didn’t leave my room for days on end and would lay around watching Disney movies and crying. So, I made a second attempt at getting counselling. I went to a therapist on campus who told me to make a list of things to do that make me feel better when I felt sad. That was an impossible assignment for someone who couldn’t identify emotions as they arose. The concept of coping skills was entirely foreign to me.
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She told me that I showed classic signs of clinical depression. Upon the suggestion that I speak to a psychiatrist, I was annoyed. I wondered how a clinical diagnosis could make any difference from what I’d always experienced. I wanted an out. I wanted an easy way to make it go away, and a medical diagnosis didn’t feel like an easy solution. Going to a psychiatrist was another thing on a list of things to do that I was not willing to check off.
Before even being prescribed medication, I rejected the hypothetical possibility. I was convinced that going on anti-depressants would make me numb to the world. I only paid attention to the stories of people who claimed medication didn’t work for them. I was searching for a definitive answer on what to do, and I listened closely to the voices that were critical of medical solutions. I paid the most attention to people who didn’t encourage me to find my path to healing.
Stigma about mental illness was encoded into my inner schema. It was so deeply embedded in me that it prevented me from even trying out possible solutions.
Going to a psychiatrist scared me. I was horrified by the suggestion that I had a mental illness. I believed psychiatrists existed within the confines of a narrow, stereotypical image. I wrote in my journal, “Do I really need to be seen by a PSYCHIATRIST? In a leather chair and all? Laying down and baring my soul? It seems so fake, so forced and not personal. I don’t want a doctor to evaluate me; I want to be HEALED, not TREATED.”
I stopped seeing the counsellor and never went to the psychiatrist she referred me to. It was my pattern: if therapy got too intense, if I started feeling better, or if I was referred to a psychiatrist, I’d just stop going. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I had a mental disorder. I had depression. I have lived with major depressive disorder since I was a child. It is a chronic condition that I denied was a real medical problem that required treatment.