No, not the illegal kind. The anti-depressant kind.
Last time we talked about mental illness at length, I was visiting the local mental health center and leaving empty-handed. I expected to get help immediately, and that didn’t happen. (Quick recap: I have depersonalization/derealization disorder and attention-deficit disorder.)
The next day, I made an appointment with the psychiatrist the mental health center recommended, but she couldn’t see me for 3.5 weeks. It pained me to watch the weeks tick by, knowing if the psychiatrist did prescribe me some kind of meds, I’d have to wait even longer for them to kick in and start helping, should they help at all. However, at least I had some help to look forward to, instead of a bleak nothingness with no help in sight.
Today, I drove to my appointment. Unlike last time, when I was scared and nervous out of my mind, this time I wasn’t. It helped that I scheduled my appointment at a specific time, forcing me to go despite any reservations I might have.
Of course, I drove to the wrong place. My fault. When I booked the original appointment, the psychiatrist gave me her address and explained that she had recently moved offices. Then, she called me a few days ago and asked if I needed directions – I didn’t, because I had written them down. So I thought. This morning, I googled directions, headed out early, and arrived at an empty office. Piss.
After calling, getting proper directions, and heading to the correct place, I found myself entering a waiting room (I was still early, so there!). A large, besuited man sat on a blue and green loveseat, reading a newspaper. As I entered, he asked in a loud, commanding voice if I was there to see Dr. B.
“Have a seat, she’ll come out shortly.”
I sat on a matching couch. Around the corner, a coffee machine percolated, filling the room with the smell of roasted beans. Across from us, a desk bearing a slip of yellow paper inserted into a plastic stand read (I changed the names, obviously):
John Doe, Attorney
John Doe II
John Doe III, Your Diamond Source
I thought it odd that such a ragtag group of people shared this tiny office. Other than this bizarro yellow paper, the waiting room had sparse fixtures. An end table. A lamp. A mini fridge. The “Your Diamond Source” thing set my consumer skeptic sense tingling. I naturally assumed that the large, loud, besuited man must be John Doe III. I was wrong. A few minutes later, a lady entered, asking for John Doe III. The man said he wasn’t in today. I busied myself reading “The Magic of Reality” by Richard Dawkins on my iPad.
Eventually, Dr. B came out of her office. She’s quite beautiful, prettier than in the picture I found of her on her website, with long brown hair. She had me fill out some forms, including the Beck Depression Inventory, which I can’t help but overanalyze.
In her office, the sun shone in through closed miniblinds behind her, making it hard for me to see. This bothered me more and more as we talk – it maked me feel like we’re in a hazy dream. I considered telling her she should re-orient her office space, but that might mean she’d end up with the sun in her eyes.
Our visit passed simply enough: she asked some questions about medical history, family history, drug or alcohol use, stuff about suicide, and then more or less opened the floor for me to tell her why I had come to see her.
I think blogging has given me the advantage of being able to articulate my problems more effectively. I explain to her everything I’ve explained in my previous posts. She’s definitely an evidence-based psychiatrist – we have lots of words to say to each other about dopamine, serotonin, etc. We talk about ADD, depersonalization, and anxiety/depression. I suppose what I hoped would happen, happens. She’s easy to talk to and we speak the same language of science and rationality.
Things take an interesting aside when we bring up my parents.
In a way, I don’t want to write about my parents. I don’t want to write about them because I fear they will read what I write and take offense. So, I’ll try to put this delicately.
I think my parents did the best job they knew how to do. All parents make mistakes, and I know if I ever become a parent, I will make mistakes. To fault them for making mistakes would be akin to god faulting humans for sinning when he designed them to sin in the first place.
As a child, whenever I displayed an emotional reaction, my emotions went un-validated. If I said, “parent, you just did a thing which hurt my feelings.” instead of apologizing or working through that problem, I got this response, “Oh yeah? Well when you did X, that hurt my feelings.” If I cried, I needed to “grow up”. I cannot think of a single instance in which, “my feelings are hurt by a thing you did” was met with any degree of comfort whatsoever. Talking to my parents about something they did that upset me always made things worse, whether I approached them in a screaming fit or in a shell of diplomacy. They told me, “you think everyone’s out to get you” more times than I can count. Eventually, I learned that not having feelings hurt less. Or hiding them hurt less.
If I was physically hurt, my mom went to great lengths to inspect and clean every cut, to the point where the cuts and scrapes hurt more when I went to her for help – so I stopped going to her and took care of the cuts myself or hid them. A few times, she tried to insist we only play in the woods wearing glasses or safety glasses, because she feared we’d poke our eyes out like my great grandpa did in the war.
My mom obsessed with making sure my siblings and I did not harm our bodies, except for spanking/paddling. My dad once made a paddle out of inch-thick Lucite and drilled holes in it, then told my siblings and I that the holes reduced air resistance and made the paddle strike harder. The science of hurting.
I love my parents. We have a decent, adult relationships with each other now. They gave my siblings and I the gift of a secular upbringing, and sowed early seeds of skepticism by buying me “Zillions” a consumer skepticism magazine for kids. I’ve made countless mistakes in my life, so I don’t expect perfection, nor do I fault people for decades-old mistakes. Parenting looks hard.
Dr. B said the same thing that the counselor a few years ago and other people have said: the way I react emotionally might relate to the treatment of emotion in my house as a child. I don’t know if I want to admit that yet. She also suggested I check out the American Psychoanalytic Association, which I balked at (Way to much personal bias seeps into psychoanalysis).
I left the office with: A script for 20mg Lexapro 1x/day (for depression/anxiety) and 150mg Wellbutrin for ADD. Dr. B also wants me to get a comprehensive metabolic panel completed to test for any metabolic abnormalities.
If I want to try a stimulant for ADD (like Ritalin) I need to complete more testing, as the FDA has tightened up restrictions on the dispensing of those drugs. She also suggested I think about personality testing for other personality issues (like the MMPI and Milion) and maybe revisiting counseling.
I feel this experience is a step in the right direction, though I also get a sense of a long, twisting road ahead of me. I’m going to keep writing about this, because I want other people out there in Crazyville to know you can find hope and help in evidence-based medicine. I want to demystify the process of getting help, so you don’t have to feel like you’re rounding a blind corner. I want you to know you are not alone. For those of you who don’t live in Crazyville – you know someone who does. This matters to all of us.
Now, time to go fill some prescriptions and see what they do for me.
P.S. Did you know that Target, Wal-mart, and local chain grocery stores have “Four dollar drug lists” or “prescription programs” in which those stores offer certain generic prescription drugs for super cheap? NPR convinced me to always buy generic, even (and especially if) I have a coupon for the brand name drug, and several (but not nearly all) pharmacies offer certain drugs for dirt cheap. You can save a LOT of money by checking out prescription programs at your local stores. Here are the ones for Wal-mart, Target, Kroger, and Schnucks (local to St. Louis). A lot of them also have free antibiotics.
TL:DR: I went to a psychiatrist and got meds.