Friday, like a good girl, I went to the doctor’s appointment GAB had scheduled for me at a random clinic. The doctor asked me why I was there. “Because my coworkers got fed up of hearing me complain about how unwell I am. I had the flu on NYE, I had aching kidneys in mid-January, I had some sort of bronchitis end of January, and ever since, I am just so tired.” He took my blood pressure, made me say Aaaaah, and tested my knee reflexes. “You seem perfectly healthy.” Bro, really? After 3 minutes, no questions about my medical history, you feel you’ve done enough to give me your professional opinion? I look ok, but I’m not ok. I used to be an athlete. I know my body inside out and I am telling you this fatigue is not normal. I am exhausted, always. “Fine, we’ll do some blood tests.”
$378 later (thank goodness for insurance!), I was told that the clinic would contact me if and only if any of the tests came back positive. I was dismissed.
On impulse, I called the clinic where I’d last seen the GP with kind eyes that saw past my social front, and first diagnosed me with my shadow. I was way overdue to see him. Last spring, he’d prescribed me with 6 months’ worth of medication for my ADD, and requested a follow up appointment. Bureaucracy and an unfriendly receptionist resulted in me missing the appointment; my medication ran out in beginning November. To my surprise, I got an appointment immediately. I saw him yesterday.
Ever the professional, he insisted on taking me on as a patient because he was not comfortable prescribing a controlled substance (ADD medication) to someone whose file he couldn’t properly follow (I NOW HAVE A FAMILY DOCTOR FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE I MOVED OUT IN 2005! THE RELIEF IS REAL!). In doing so, he got access to my blood test results. Clean bill of health, other than some slight anemia, which is normal amongst menstruating women. So why the fatigue?
And so started the conversation of my shadow, because fatigue and unusual sleep patterns are a major symptom of depression. Yes sir, I’ve had another episode since we last spoke. Just pulling myself out of it, actually. He made me fill out a standard questionnaire used by professionals to monitor the severity of the patient’s depression. To my surprise, my score indicated that I am currently suffering a major depression, moderately severe. “Impossible! I’m BETTER now. Sir, you should have seen me in Nov-Dec, I was a wreck”. We went through the questionnaire again, only to conclude that in December, I’d been undergoing a severe major depression, one that would have required antidepressants AND psychotherapy AND a leave of absence. One that I’d navigated alone, and survived. Barely.
So here I am. With a referral to a psychiatrist. My GP has requested that I be assessed for bi polar disorder.“Bi-polar?! Me?!! No. I’m not manic. No. Impossible.” My GP smiled. Not all manias manifest themselves the same. He’d feel more comfortable if we could rule out that possibility, given the increasingly disruptive frequency and intensity of my depressive episodes. He gently suggested that I’d done all I could do to manage this burden on my own: it was time to consult a specialist, someone who could determine what exactly was going on, and what drugs/treatment, if any, could alleviate my condition.
I admitted that part of me had always hoped he was wrong – maybe I didn’t have a shadow, I didn’t have major depressive disorder. Maybe I’d just been unlucky. Maybe blowing out my knee and having my mother die unexpectedly in her sleep within 3 weeks of each other was enough to make me depressed (2012). Maybe finding out the guy I’d been sleeping with had forgotten to tell me he had a girlfriend, a bunch of terrible bad dates, a stressful job and a boxing concussion was enough to make me depressed (2014). Maybe all the minor blips in 2016 the result of that concussion + my terrible taste in men. Maybe I just couldn’t handle stress well, and boy, had 2017 been stressful. Maybe I was just insecure. Maybe I just needed to eat better, exercise more, try harder. Maybe I was actually ok?
No. My GP was as confident in his diagnosis (major depressive disorder) now as he had been a year ago. It was time, he felt, to leverage a specialist would give me the tools to free my brain from its poison, and allow me to “access the full potential of this amazing gift you have been given of your intelligence. It is your extreme intelligence that allowed you to get this far without help. Even now, as I talk to you, you fool me. Your mannerisms and demeanor are that of an overworked, tired professional. You look healthy. But your eyes give you away. Your eyes show suffering.”
I pride myself on being fairly self-aware. Yet I had no idea it was this bad. I knew my year-end evaluation was not great (inter-personal difficulties), I knew my dance squad has repeatedly mentioned I’m too intense, too emotional to be around. I knew I was dangerously apathetic towards work. I knew my meltdowns were still happening (on Monday, a relatively innocuous convo triggered a two hour sob-fest at my desk that I couldn’t control, such that I had to leave work, take a sick day and I continued to cry uncontrollably all afternoon. I am still dehydrated from that experience, 48 hours later). Yet… I couldn’t see these signs for what they were: I am not ok. Really not ok. I was in denial.
It feels like grief, accepting this sentencing to a life of struggle and suffering. I don’t know that I have the energy to keep fighting this hard, forever.
It feels like fear. My career, my beautiful, precious, wonderful career, my biggest asset, my pride and joy, jeopardized by the very brain that got me here.
It feels like paranoia. The inevitable labels of ‘weak’, ‘crazy’, ‘unpredictable’, ‘unable to cope’.
It feels like loneliness. Few are those that can sustain the burden of loving someone like me. I tire myself, and I definitely wear out those around me.
It feels like exhaustion. Bone deep exhaustion.
But today, 24 hours later, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it also feels a tiny bit like the possibility of hope.
It’s a lot to process.