As a child I was always told I was over reacting and that I needed to grow up, toughen up and push on. This is a GREAT pep talk if you kid is playing soccer and feeling like a weenie. This is not a great pep talk when you child is expressing problems with her breathing and you blow it off as trying to get attention. Throughout my childhood there were signs that something physically was not right. Absent periods, joint pain, crazy allergies at non-consistent times. When my cycles did start they were painful and heavy. When I spoke to my parents about this I was told I was over reacting and “this is just how it is.” When I talked about my crippling anxiety and depression I was told I was over reacting and I needed to rest more or drink more water (my family’s favorite solution to all aliments).
This mentality has stuck with me. “Surely all of this is in my head,” I’d remind myself as I pressed on matter how awful I felt physically or mentally. Asking for help last week was a huge step in so many ways. Not only was I admitting I had a problem, I was putting myself out there for more of the same criticism I grew up with. My biggest fear was that the counselor would look at me and say I was over reacting or that she would belittle my pain.
In the 60 minutes we spent together we went through my entire history: infertility, autoimmune, family problems, a unfulfilling job, feeling alienated in the city in which we live, depression, anxiety and more. I told her that I’m not sleeping well. Some nights I can’t fall asleep at all, other nights I can’t stay asleep. I’m always exhausted and miss having my characteristic “pep” that earned me the nickname Tigger many years ago.
At the end of the session we worked up a plan:
- I would like to avoid daily medication if possible. I have taken medication in the past and while it helped with my anxiety it killed my ability to write and create. She agreed that we will first explore alternative treatments.
- I WILL take medication to help me sleep. Right now I can’t manage through a panic attack because I’m too damned tired. I need sleep and if it takes some medication to make it happen then fine. I’m meeting with a nurse practitioner later this month to find the right medication for me (non habit-forming (I have an extensive family history of addiction), will not leave me hung over and is safe before and during pregnancy).
- I ordered a pocket-sized bio feedback machine that will arrive tomorrow (super excited about this!) and will use it at least once a day.
- I will join a stress reduction group and learn new meditation techniques.
- I will continue seeing this counselor on a weekly basis.
- I will make an appointment at Mayo or John Hopkins to let an expert attempt to diagnose me.
That last one really shocked me. My counselor explained that she has had numerous patients with disease that goes misdiagnosed for years in the health care system at THE BIG UNIVERSITY where I work. She explained that MDs in town all agree that Lexington is not the place to receive a diagnosis and that if there are signs of potentially serious disease, people should see an expert a.s.a.p. Scary as it is, I’ll look into this in the coming weeks and set an appointment.
Most importantly, my counselor agreed that I have been through two years of unbelievable shit. Not once did she say I was over reacting. Not once did she hint that my anxiety is all a ploy for attention. She was sympathetic, kind, and willing to work with me to reign in my anxiety and depression.
I feel such relief knowing that steps are being taken to make me feel better. I wish I could say that the Professor was just as supportive, but he was not.
I’m still trying to process his reaction, which included a blanch when I said I will be taking medication to sleep and that I will be going to see this woman once a week for a while. He seemed bothered that the counselor agreed that I need help and that I should see a specialty clinic regarding my autoimmune condition. Much like my parents, the Professor seems genuinely unwilling to admit that his wife has a problem and needs help. The only thing he did support was when I told him we also discussed my disordered thinking when it comes to food. Otherwise, he was shockingly cold to the entire plan.
After this conversation I retreated to the bathroom to cry. The bathroom is my safe spot – no one barges in on you when you are pants-less on the crapper, you know? I guess I’ll talk to the counselor about this next week. In the meantime, I’m eagerly awaiting my biofeedback machine and starting to take steps to healing, even if I’m taking them by myself.