LBGT History Month, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Pastor Appreciation Month… October has a lot of “themes” associated with it. October is also National Depression Awareness Month. Don’t run out to the store; they don’t sell decorations for it. I checked.
For as far back as I can remember, I have been an anxiety-ridden person. When I was a kid, I would find myself crying hysterically on a Sunday night, because I was scared to go to school Monday morning. Why? Because I was scared I wouldn’t be prepared, or I’d forget my books, or I forgot to do part of my homework and didn’t know it, et cetera, et cetera. What kid worries that much about forgetting their books? Well… me. That’s the level of anxiety and fear I live with every single day. Until a few months ago, I didn’t realize most people don’t live like that. Most people know it’s not the end of the world if you forgot a book, or if you’re two minutes late, or if their shirt wasn’t ironed perfectly.
So, I was talking to my best friend, Shawna, about it. It just didn’t seem right to have these feelings of anger, anxiety, and fear, because I can’t ever just relax. There is always something. Heaven forbid I had to meet with Shawna and was a few minutes late. I’d apologize profusely and feel like crap the rest of the time we were hanging out. Really. Logically, I know it’s not that serious. But. I don’t exercise a whole lot of reason when I have these moments of pure anxiety. Well, Shawna told me she used to feel similarly. She made me feel at ease that she, too, struggled with her feelings, but she got help. Help? I’m not a crazy person; I am just anxious. No big deal. We talked, and I put our conversation on the backburner and went on with my life.
On some random day in August, I got into an argument with my husband. I can’t remember what it was about, but I do remember two things: it was a dumb argument, and it was entirely my fault. At that point, everything became clear, and I was truly cognizant of what was happening – nothing about the argument was worth having. My husband, who has been incredibly patient with me for the last 9 or so years of our relationship, had learned how to deal with my flying off the handle. It just wasn’t right, and he deserves better. My son deserves better. The next day, I made an appointment with my PCM.
September 5th rolled around, the day of my appointment, and I was a nervous wreck. I was so anxious about the appointment that I thought about just canceling it. You don’t have to deal with it if you don’t think about it, right? Well, I went. The nurse checking me in asked what I was being seen for. Scared to even talk about it, I told her I wanted to talk to my PCM about my anxiety/depression. After asking me twice what I meant by “anxiety/depression,” the nurse said, “Oh, are you sad? I get sad sometimes, too. But you’ll be okay.” I’m not even joking.
I proceeded to rip her face off. One of the worst feelings, to me, is not having my feelings validated. She made me feel like I was just being dramatic or I didn’t deserve to be there, which didn’t help with how anxious I was already feeling about the appointment. I, of course, was texting Shawna, while this was happening. If it weren’t for Shawna and this innate ability we have to laugh at ourselves, even when things seem as unfunny as it can get, I am pretty sure I would’ve just left the doctor’s office.
The doctor came in, and I poured my heart out to her, telling her how anxious/angry/sad/scared I was all the time. I cried a lot while describing to her my feelings. Not once did she look at me. She spent the whole time on her computer – clicking this, typing that. For all I know, she was on WebMD trying to figure out what to tell me. She didn’t even hand me a friggin’ tissue. I mean, really. Have a heart! Well, when I was done, she said that I sound like I am living with anxiety and depression and proceeded to prescribe me an anti-depressant. She then asked if I wanted to see a psychologist. I really didn’t want to, because I felt like therapy was just going to be a waste of time, but I said yes, because I thought that was the right answer. (See, I often think about what the “right” answer is instead of thinking about what is right for ME.) She gave me my prescription and off I went. (I’m pretty sure if I ran into her at the commissary, she’d have no idea who I was. I mean, she could have at least glanced at me once…)
So, I’m on anti-depressants now. Okay. Now what? Am I just magically cured? I don’t feel instantly happy. Aren’t anti-depressants supposed to make you instantly happy? I think she prescribed me placebos, because I don’t feel any different.
I got my referral to see a psychologist. I called the hospital to make an appointment. Unfortunately, they only see service members on post. My heart sank. I REALLY DIDN’T want to see an off-post psychologist. We live in Korea, and I just felt with the culture difference, it wouldn’t be a good fit. I decided enough was enough, and I just needed to suck it up and make the call to be seen anyway. The conversation went something like this:
Receptionist: Thank you for calling (name of firm), this is blah blah. How can I help you?
Me: <gasp> YOU SPEAK AMERICAN?
Receptionist: <hesitation> Yes, I speak English. How can I help you this morning?
Me: ARE YOU AMERICAN?
Me: I’m sorry, I promise I don’t mean to be a stupid American, but I was expecting “yo bo se yo” (Korean for “hello” when answering the phone) and to have to do charades over the phone.
She laughed and told me half the firm was western. I gave her my information and was told someone would call me back within a week. The next day, I got a call from a woman who told me she and another woman were my options for a therapist, since I specified I wanted to see a female. In my head, since this person (we’ll call her Mary) took the time to call me, she should be my therapist. Anyway, I told Mary I’d like to see her, and we set up a time. I asked where they were located, and of all places, the offices are two blocks from my apartment. Here’s the thing about Seoul – nothing is two blocks from me. I mean, it’s a big city with lots of people and buildings and such, and we live in the heart of the city, but nothing is ever just two blocks away. It was my sign this was the right path for me.
I was scared to death the whole walk to the therapist’s office. I was scared I wasn’t going to say the right thing or she, too, wouldn’t validate my feelings. I checked in and was escorted to a room with a chair and a comfy couch. Just like on TV. Greaaaat. Mary walked through the door. She was pretty and very sweet. I felt dumb sitting there. She started asking questions, and I quickly started to pour my heart out.
As it turns out, Mary is an Army wife. She not only validated my feelings, but she made me feel as normal as I have ever felt in a long time. In our sessions, I discovered all of the sadness, anger, and fear I feel branch off from my anxiety, and as I am dealing with the root of the problem (which is, apparently, my childhood), the rest will fall into place. I’ve attended four sessions now, and my husband is going to my fifth session. That should be interesting! She gives me homework every week, and I am learning more and more about myself. Therapy shouldn’t be taboo. To me, therapy (if you find the right therapist) is just having a friend who is a really good listener, helps you figure out how to deal with your issues, and is paid for by Tricare.
The last week of September, my son was out of school for an allergic reaction to a spider bite. His eye was swollen shut. Poor thing looked like he got sucker punched. Normally, I would be a mess having Matthew 24/7 without a break. Honestly, while I love my son, I NEED my alone time, and when I don’t get it, I get angry. Well, after four days of Matthew not going to school, dragging him to my meetings, and finding ways to entertain him, Shawna pointed something out to me – I wasn’t angry. I hadn’t once complained about needing alone time. The anti-depressants snuck up on me, as Shawna said they would. Matthew was home from school for seven school days, and we just had fun. The old me would’ve just lost it. The new me just loved it. Well, for the most part, anyway.
Here’s the thing… If you are living with anxiety and/or depression and haven’t addressed it, you need to get off your butt and do something about it. Once you get over that hurdle, you will wonder why you waited so long in the first place. You’re worth it. Your family is worth it.
You know I’m right.