It happened this past Fall. I was in the middle of a regular appointment with a clinical professional (read: my monthly appointment with a therapist) and she had the nerve to blatantly ask me if I thought I was depressed.
Well… I don’t know… Why are you asking me? Aren’t you the professional? Shouldn’t you know?
I blew it off. There’s no way. I’ve been in darker places. I’m a tough cookie. I’ve been through tougher times.
Truth was, it had been a pretty tough year. Well years. Or something…
Then, in the middle of the winter during said regular meeting at the bar, I mean my therapist’s office, she had the nerve to ask me again if I thought I was depressed!
I mean, come on! Are we playing this game again? I’m here so you can tell me that.
So I went home and stewed over this silly, silly question. Why would she ask me again? Why? Why? Why? So, I did what any normal person would do.
I went to WebMD.
There in internet black and white words…it told me. There were the signs. The indicators. The red flags. The several boxes I checked that indicated I was…depressed? Maaaaaaan. How did I get here? What the heck happened? I KNOW the signs. Why would I deny it to myself? I’ve taken Psychology 101, people! I have been told by other medical professionals what the possible indicators could be. I had struggled with the same things in high school and college. I immediately and very much to my style started taking notes. I wrote down everything I wanted to fix. Everything. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. I took these notes and print outs to my next appointment. I showed up like a crazy lady (pun intended) with printouts, highlighted items, paragraphs and scribbled notes. I told her, the clinical professional, that there was something wrong that I kept “falling back” into these sad places. I couldn’t seem to get the words out quick enough or explain to her clearly enough that this “thing” that was wrong with me could be fixed and I wanted to start now. Now. Now. Now.
And you know what? She had the nerve to say something blatant again.
She told me there was nothing wrong with me.
I mean, what? Then why the heck would you ask me if I was depressed? Why would put that little bit of information in my little noggin’ so I could think about it? Why would you let me think about it all the way until the next appointment so I could analyze my behavior or reactions and see if I exhibit any of the indicators….oooooohhhh. Oh. I see what you did there. Smart, Ms. Clinical Professional. Very smart. You think you know me or something? You got me.
I was both equally relieved and enraged that there was nothing wrong with me. It would have been way easier if there was a fix. I mean, just tell me this little drill I should do before bedtime and I’ll magically feel better about myself, okay?
But unfortunately mental health isn’t that easy. The truth was, I sought out help because I felt incredibly lost. Looking back, perhaps it was a perfect storm of sorts: Take away 1 job and add in 1 career change, plus a few jobs that have had frustratingly nothing to do with said career change. Be sure to hold tight during this process as you’ll remain in a holding pattern while your amazing Main Squeeze waits to hear back from medical schools for at least 2 years. Blend in some taunting by interviews that never panned out. Mix in the death of your grandmother. Calculate the amount you’ve spent on attending everyone’s wonderful life celebrations (scratch that, don’t do that). Kneed in the constant reminder that you’re choosing a different path from most (read: all) of your social surroundings and then weep for your sad, empty uterus. Now top it off with some Suzy Sunshine sprinkles so people can’t see you’re confused because no one likes a Debbie Downer. Throw it in the oven for 3 years. Leave on a cooling rack and then enjoy the taste of losing your mojo.
I was struggling.
Even after we found out that My Main Squeeze was accepted to medical school, I put myself on trial for not doing more by now. It was tough for me to understand that I could be a happy person and at the same time be utterly lost and sad about where I was. I took a break from writing (here) too – something I loved. A few keen girlfriends in my life had already spotted the change in me. My Main Squeeze surely had. Bless his patient, kind soul. So I decided to go to therapy and I’m working to get that stride back in my step. And you know, what? I’m happy to say I’m well on my way, if not already there! I have a confidence that I haven’t had in years that I am enough and my path is mine alone. I was given some tools to help with the self-doubt and negative talk that left me unable to make a decision or wish I didn’t have to. For some people those tools are medication provided by their medical professional. For others its alcohol. For me, it was a combination of talking about it, reading about it and working through it. Sometimes going for a run or a nice long walk too… Each person has a different path of coping. Mine, sadly, did not require medication or alcohol. Damn the man.
I confided in a few special girlfriends about seeing a therapist and revealed what she pinpointed about me. To this day I still find some of their reactions interesting. A few never spoke of it again with me. I was typically a constant cheerleader, and perhaps this new revelation about me put them in a different, awkward position. But most surprised me, both near and far friends. They shared very similar stories. Very similar fears. I heard about almost identical paths in therapy. We laughed about the stigmas associated with counselors, anti-depressants and how tough Italians don’t do therapy.
What? You didn’t see the last episode of the Real Housewives of New Jersey?
There’s something to be said about the mantra: a key to a great relationship with your significant other is having great girlfriends. Thanks to those of you. You were my comfort in a time of confusion.
I realize that there’s an inherent risk to sharing that I’ve been to therapy. There’s an immediate judgment by some. I think I’ve learned enough from my journey though that their judgment won’t define my path. I wanted to share these struggles because it would have been comforting to know I wasn’t alone in questioning them. Sometimes all it takes is knowing that you’re not alone.
I know exactly what you’re thinking now. This is precisely what happens when Oprah’s show has been off the air for a year.
Now what about you? Would love for you to share any thoughts or comments in that hand-dandy reply section below!
caroline, thanks for posting this. I too struggle with depression and social anxiety and it’s just always refreshing to have other people in the same boat. and I’ve had those same moments- those oh god, the depression is here again, write down everything moments.
kristin o says
i am on small dose of an anti-depressant for anxiety and have been on and off for years. i feel better that way, and i’m not afraid to tell people because i don’t want to perpetuate stigma. usually if i mention my anxiety people will be like, oh i have/had (some mental health issue) myself, and it’s a bonding thing. therapy is definitely a good thing for a lot of people, i think you can benefit from it even when you’re not struggling with anything. it helps you sort out your thinking and see your tendencies more clearly. i work with international students and i like to talk openly about my own experiences when i notice clients might be having some troubles – it works like a charm to combat the stigma. great post and cheers for your honesty!
Thank you, Kristin! Talking openly about it is key for so many people to feel like they aren’t alone. Thanks for sharing too! 🙂
Thank you for being such an intelligent, honest and amazing woman. You are an inspiration; good years, bad years and everything in between! And thank you for being my friend. (cue Golden Girls music… especially since you’re moving to Fla.)
Kelly Lang Mulder says
You are an amazing woman. And even more amazing for posting this. It is so good to read something that is so similar to what I have gone through. I remember distinctly those same words…there is nothing wrong with you. But that doesnt mean you dont have reason to be sad. And you need to let yourself be sad….then there is work to be done to get living. I cant quote my therapist exactly but that is what I remember. She is wonderful. So are you!
You are just as wonderful, Kelly! 🙂
I really appreciate this Caroline. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression since ’98 and wish there were a way to ‘fix’ it. I take some medication, and the more open I am with friends, the more surprised I am to hear they are taking medication too. Keep up your blog and doing what you do – your positivity is contagious and refreshing!
Isn’t it refreshing to know other people have the same struggles?! I’ll absolutely keep up the blog. Keep reading! 🙂
Thanks for sharing this Caroline, this is truely inspiring. Life is sometimes tough. It is ok to loose it when u have to. My way of dealing my depression is to not let it grow. I cry , i run or i go for a long walk just to get rid of my anger, anxiety. I mean, we gotta let it out before its gone worse….cheers,take it easy, girl…
Excellent post as always. It takes incredible strength (and confidence in yourself) to write such a coherent article about such a personal topic. You and your main squeeze have many great things ahead of you and I’m looking forward to it.
Awww, thanks Shailesh!
Love this! What wonderful insight you have, not to mention your sense of humor.
Just realized I never responded to all of these wonderful and supportive comments! It was incredibly refreshing to read all of your stories and I applaud you sharing! Thank you. And keep reading! 🙂