Friday, September 23, 2011

Adventures in Mental Illness

The depression, unfortunately, has continued. After weeks of sitting in it, I finally got it together to call a psychiatrist.

Though I've had almost as many therapists as lovers (and that's saying something), I've never been to a psychiatrist. Given my collective familial mental illness and my own bad chemicals, it's a little surprising. But I, like many, chocked up my depression to my underperforming thyroid, and my fanatically clean house and trim body not to OCD but to a love of aesthetics. That somehow was easier than taking a deep look at the weird stuff that sometimes goes through my head, than allowing myself a label or two.

I've seen this psychiatrist three times in the past week. Together we've tried to unknot the tangle of behavior and feelings, both mine and what I know of my family's. We've teased out strands and laid them before us like ropes of DNA. There, yes, is my mother's mania, her long deep depressions. There's her OCD. There's my father's impromptu singing in public, his dark anger. My brother's sadness, my sister's - well, as the doctor himself said, it sounds like my sister is a whole story unto herself.

I've been to the lab, been tested for my levels of folic acid, B vitamin, iron, etc, etc. I've even peed in a cup to test for UTI, which, somehow, came back positive? It has been a wholly fascinating journey, a cocktail of intellectual and emotional, medical and psychological. Turns out the anti-depressant I was on amps up anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behaviors, could even push a tendency towards mania - who knew?

The doctor had me map a mood-chart. I chose to look at my whole life. On the vertical axis, my mood. On the horizontal, my age. Together we dissected the highs and lows. The steep drops when I became a latch-key kid, when my first love affair bit the dust, when my father died, when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers. These losses, these abandonments, with which my heart - and my biology - weren't able to cope.

Looking at that chart, that long low line of my twenties, that perilous dip at adolescence, I feel regret. Regret that I couldn't know then what I know now, that I couldn't seek the help that's now at my disposal, in fact that didn't exist, at least not as it does in this brave new pharmacological age. All those years lost in the fog.

With every meeting with this doctor, I have more hope. Hope that I can wake up in the morning - maybe every morning? - feeling well. Hope that I can face myself - my sadness, my worry, my control - and perhaps do something to lessen my pain. Hope that I can shake off these generations of serotonin and dopamine deprived people that came before me, can step away from that dark whirlpool. Hell, I know it won't be perfect but I smell freedom on the wind.


  1. Once you get on the right meds. for your body, you will find relief. Hang in there lady, those dark clouds will part. Thanks for continuing to share. annemarie

  2. Thanks for giving the words to the so many who share your journey. So proud of you and "Hope" is beautiful...along with the hard work to get back into the light. love to you. erin