When I Finally Decided It Was Time to Get an Anxiety Diagnosis
I received my official diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) about three months ago, at the age of 25. It was less than a shock, but that doesn’t mean coming to grips with my diagnosis is easy.
I finally decided to face my illness head on and seek professional help for several reasons. For one, it was really starting to impact my day-to-day life. Paralyzing anxiety was keeping me from leaving the house to hang out with friends or do any other once enjoyable activities. I was afraid of panic attacks and had a general unease about the unknown. Peeling the covers off my body every morning in order to get out of bed became somewhat of an accomplishment. There were few things that still held my interest and gave me anything resembling true pleasure, and I felt those bright spots fading to a shade of grey, like everything else around me.
But all of these reasons weren’t enough. I’ve spent eight years since I’ve graduated high school dabbling in college here or there, just wading around in the muck and unsure of what I wanted to do in life. For someone who is depressed, not even knowing what you want out of life or what you’re passionate about only compounds the symptoms the illness gives you, and it really had been doubling down.
Through pure chance I stumbled into the field of social work. My dad is a psychologist and it had always been something that fascinated me, but the amount of schooling required before getting to practice was daunting; I had never considered social work as an option before. Suddenly, something connected inside of me, and finally there was something in my sight I wanted to work towards, even if it felt so far in the distance it might as well be unattainable.
I got into my university’s social work program, and they were not shy about telling us we’d have to work on our own baggage in order to effectively help others who are in need. I knew then if I wanted to make this happen for myself, I needed to stop ignoring the huge dark elephant in the room that had been following me around for the better portion of my life, and actively seek help.
I made an appointment at the university’s clinic and went the next day to begin the process. I filled out paperwork and completed the mental health screening they did prior to meeting with the doctor. My family has a rich history when it comes to mental health — without naming anyone, diagnosis in my immediate family include bipolar, depression, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia, not to mention the various addictions that run rampant. I knew the doctor was going to see this history and automatically assume a diagnosis I wasn’t ready to hear.
My palms were sweaty and gripping the vinyl armrest on the chair, my legs were shaking repetitively underneath me, but that was nothing abnormal. My mind and my heart were in a race and I’d say it was a complete deadlock, and my instinct was to run away just as they were. Finally the doctor entered, and he began his interrogation, which lasted about five minutes. I told him outright I’d never been diagnosed, but I know I’m depressed and have anxiety, and based on his brief assessment he agreed. The whole thing up until this point felt cold, which I don’t know why it came as a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting it to be a warm and fuzzy experience. He explained what medications he felt I may benefit from and we discussed possible side effects and hopeful benefits. He started me a few medications. He did consider I could possibly have bipolar disorder, but I was clear that was not a conversation I was willing to broach after just a 5-minute assessment, and he respected that.
Now, three months later, I have had five separate medication changes, and never have I felt more like a science experiment. But, I do know that can be part of the process, and it will be worth it when I find a combination that really works for me. I have been going to counseling once a week for the last three months as well, and while I still struggle daily, I feel much better knowing I’m making a conscious effort to bettering and healing myself.
For me, I have known for at least 10 years I have had depression and anxiety before I reached out and asked for help. Even while knowing I’ve struggled for so long, it’s not easy coming to grips with an official diagnosis. I remember seeing my diagnoses printed in bold letters on my paper prescription from the doctor, and it hit me with a swift force right in my gut. Suddenly it was so real. I was finally acknowledging it. While I know this is something I will struggle with my whole life, most days I feel it is a challenge I’m up for and ready to take on. Slowly but surely the color is returning to my life, and there’s no better feeling than when the smile you’re wearing is a genuine one, because you feel joy.
The Mighty is asking the following: What was the moment that made you realize it was time to face your mental illness? What was your next step? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.