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What It Was Like to See a Psychiatrist for the First Time

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Today, I saw a psychiatrist for the first time. It’s no surprise I ended up here. Since I was diagnosed, I assumed this day would come. Thankfully, I know there’s nothing shameful in this. I know this doesn’t make me “crazy,” but I’m still scared.

I put off thinking about the appointment as much as I could, knowing it would do little more than fill me with anxiety and fear. I planned what time to leave the office, what train to get, and I’ve given myself ample time to find the clinic.

The morning passed by smoothly; I did some work in the lab, taught a class and had lunch with friends. On my way there, no longer distracted by work or people, I became more and more anxious. Had I accidentally written down the wrong train to take? Would I be late? What if I got the address wrong? Both my mom and boyfriend had offered to come along with me, but I knew I could do this on my own.

I wondered what she’d be like. I had made the mistake of reading online reviews about her, most of which were negative. I tried to brush it off as people being pedantic and wanting to complain. I reminded myself that my general practitioner, who I like and trust, had recommended her. But that wasn’t enough to stop my mind spiraling through possibilities. What would she be like? Would I like her? Would I feel comfortable talking to her? What if she was harsh and abrasive and upset me? What if I got so anxious I couldn’t properly tell her about the things I was struggling with. What would I even say to her? I was filled with fear. This continued until the session began. She started off with basics; “what medication have you been on,” “do you work or study,” and so on. Then she asked me to tell her about my depression. I didn’t know where to start. I managed a few words, telling her it had been going on for a few years and that I often felt down and had suicidal thoughts. She then asked me what my symptoms of depression were. Another simple question, yet it threw me. I had never just listed them off before, but I did my best.

The session went on and she confirmed my diagnosis, while saying that I was functional and that my described symptoms didn’t match my functionality. She gave me a prescription, told me how to take it and before I knew it, I was out of the door.

I’m still not certain how I felt about the experience. I don’t know whether this step will help me get better, but I want to try. I want to be better. I want to feel hopeful about the future. I want to experience joy from the things I do. I want to be happy.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via AlexandrBognat

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When Your Best Friend Has Depression Too

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Depression is a monster that tries to eat me alive. It will tell me I’m alone and that nobody cares about me. Depression will tell me I’m a burden and that reaching out for help will be a waste of everyone’s time. Two of the biggest lies depression will tell me is that I am “crazy” and the only person in world who understands what’s happening in my head. But that couldn’t be any less true.

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year. Thats roughly 43.8 million people.

So what’s it like when you realize depression lied to you? What do you do when you realize someone you love also has a mental illness? It could be your mom or dad. It could be your co-worker or best friend.

Everyone’s mental illness is different, but these are a few ways to help keep a relationship healthy if you and a loved one have a mental illness.

1. Pick who to trust.

When my depression first became an issue and I started my recovery, it was hard for me to choose when to be honest with people and when it was OK to keep my business private. I felt like I owed everyone an explanation for why I was constantly sad, angry or why I didn’t have enough energy to carry out a short conversation.

Then one day my mom started telling me, “People have to earn to hear your story. It’s not a right.” Not everyone needs or deserves to know what’s going on with you. This isn’t saying you should lie or keep to yourself, but your well-being and recovery should be your number one priority. If you feel like telling a certain person about your depression or mental illness isn’t the right thing to do, then don’t. Finding your “person” is a process, and it should be someone you know wants to help keep you safe.

2. Make boundaries clear.

Whether you have a mental illness or are loving someone who does, it can be a full-time job. Like with anything in life, we all need to have our limits. Everyone has topics they don’t like talking about or things they don’t feel comfortable doing — make those points clear.

From my personal experience, I always felt conflicted on if I wanted someone to try to understand my depression and anxiety or not. I didn’t want to feel alone, but at the same time if you understood what I was going through it means you had probably felt the same way at some point. And I would never wish my anxiety or depression on anyone. That’s why, especially when I know someone has a mental illness, I try my best to know their boundaries so I don’t trigger them.

At times, when you and a loved one both have a mental illness, your worries and issues might be more than others can handle. Seeking professional help is a great way to get a around this obstacle.

3. Everyone needs a break.

I found, especially with my depression, it’s not uncommon for just the idea of waking up tomorrow to exhaust me. This is a huge factor in my everyday life, and anybody who truly knows me understands how low my energy can be sometimes.

Because my best friend and I both have depression, this is something we regularly talk about. With that in mind, we have this understanding about our relationship. We will always love each other. We will always be there for each other. And that doesn’t change if we need a break from our friendship. Taking a break from a friendship doesn’t mean we stop being friends or feel the need to “see other people.” It’s the complete opposite. It means we’re tired and we love each other so much that we don’t want to bring the other down when we know our baggage is too much for them to handle right now. We need time to take care of ourselves and love ourselves, so we can go back to loving them.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Thinkstock

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7 Kelly Clarkson Songs That Help Me Through Periods of Depression and Anxiety

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I don’t follow any musicians or bands in particular. Usually, I just browse around and listen to the music as my mood fluctuates. Kelly Clarkson, however, is something special. Kelly Clarkson has helped me through my periods of depression and anxiety through countless songs, many of which I believe are directed to communities of people struggling with what I do. Although I began appreciating the influence of her music early in high school, I gradually forgot about her until very recently, several years later. Here is the list of my favorite songs by her, and how each has impacted me.

1. “Breakaway

I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly.

I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky.

I often find myself spacing out, thinking about regrets from my past or fantasizing about an overly-optimistic and often unattainable future. I’ve read people with depression often perceive their plight as a bird with a broken wing. I might not look that different at first, but as you get to know me, my spots and blemishes may begin to appear. And when I see everyone else — my friends, my loved ones — taking flight, I want to join them. But every time I try — sometimes forgetting my brokenness — I spiral to the ground. But I do my best to keep the ember of hope alive.

Trying hard to reach out…

But when I tried to speak out…

Felt like no one could hear me.

Many people find it difficult to reach out to loved ones, even if we hope they would do the same to us if they were ever troubled. But I often find it hard to take my own advice. Because in those rare times I do reach out or speak out, I am often misunderstood. Sometimes, being misunderstood is even worse than struggling in silence. Some well-intending people are quick to offer advice or “solutions.” Sometimes it feels like they can’t actually hear me.

2. “Behind These Hazel Eyes

I told you everything,

Opened up and let you in.

You made me feel alright,

For once in my life.

Now all that’s left of me,

Is what I pretend to be.

Sewn together, but so broken up inside.

Cause I can’t breathe,

No, I can’t sleep,

I’m barely hanging on.

The terrifying truth behind this song is this is the reality many of us live. We try to open up to other people, still very much scared of being misunderstood. The anxiety that accompanies this can be unbearable. And just like people with high-functioning anxiety and/or depression, I can seem “sewn together” from the outside, “but so broken up inside.” For me, it’s like being suffocated, except there is no rest afterwards. The reality for many is so much darker, and yet many won’t let you see it if they can help it, because they are afraid of rejection or judgment. “You won’t get to see the tears I cry… Behind these hazel eyes”

3. “People Like Us

And hey, yeah I know what you’re going through.

Don’t let it get the best of you, you’ll make it out alive.

Oh, people like us we’ve gotta stick together,

Keep your head up, nothing lasts forever


We are all misfits living in a world on fire.

I feel this song is self-explanatory. It summarizes the necessity of having such a close-knit community as we have here on The Mighty. We need each other to support each other, both in the grieving and the healing process.

4. “Catch My Breath

I don’t wanna be left behind.

Distance was a friend of mine.

Catching my breath, letting it go,

Turning my cheek for the sake of this show.

Now that you know, this is my life,

I won’t be told what’s supposed to be right.

I believe people with depression can really relate to this song. I don’t want to get left behind, but it seems like no matter what I try to do, it inevitably happens. Then I space out or isolate myself from the ones I love and the ones who love me, hoping they will forget me, while at the same time hoping they will come after me. This song also speaks to the persona I put on for others. It’s hard to get rid of, and even harder to confide in others when you fear you might just get lectured at. For people who don’t understand the problem, they can’t really understand the solution.

5. “Dark Side

There’s a place that I know,

It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone.

If I show it to you now,

Will it make you run away?

This whole song is a question about whether we will be accepted by those we love. Will they still love me “even when it hurts”? It’s a scary question I grapple with on a near-daily basis. But Kelly brings up a great point when she says “everybody has a dark side.” Everyone has problems, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of ours, even though there may currently be a stigma. This song is fascinating, but the music video perhaps even more so. Kelly sings in a dark, but beautiful outfit. Normal looking people are shown struggling in silence, in what appears to be isolation.

6. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,

Stand a little taller

This is one of Kelly’s most popular songs. This song speaks to the battle, which can be years long or even lifelong. With every passing day, week, month, year, I just grow stronger. I mature through the battle, and as long as I intentionally strive for it, I can let the darkness form me into the person I want to be. Living in darkness just means when I finally see the light, the color is that much more beautiful.

7. “Heartbeat Song

I can feel it rising,

Temperature inside me,

Haven’t felt for a long time.

Lastly, my favorite song. Sometimes, we just need to pause and breathe. Kelly has reminded me of this countless times. Feel your heart – feel it pumping. Feel the life as it surges through you. Your heartbeat means purpose. Even when your mind discourages you, your body keeps moving to keep you alive to fight another day. When you feel your heart, remember that you have a purpose here on this planet and that that heart is meant to love. Don’t let it go to waste. Even when all seems hopeless, remember to love so you can feel your heartbeat again.

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Photo via Kelly Clarkson Facebook page.

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What I Want to Say to Every Person Who Dismisses Electroconvulsive Therapy

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I’ll admit, I’m someone who really likes to get well-rounded information on anything I create an opinion about. This is especially true with areas where I have personal involvement, and after over a decade of active struggle with major depression and anorexia, I felt especially on top of some newer trends in mental health treatment. Yet nothing could prevent the devastating plummet I took into a major depressive episode last spring.

Knowing I had tried nearly 20 different psychotropic medications over the years, I had a fairly good inkling my recovery was not going to come in the form of a pill bottle. I was actively on the waiting list for a Ketamine Infusion Trial at a local medical center, but my consistent readmissions to psychiatric facilities wrote me off as a good candidate. I was encouraged by a zealous psychiatrist to pursue genetic testing, yet while the packet of genetic results I got to carry around made me feel momentarily reassured, they ultimately did little more than that.

All of this time, I continued to get worse; getting bogged down in major depression and growing increasingly intent on suicide. Feeling protective over my anorexia recovery, which became increasingly threatened as depression interfered with my appetite, I knew that if I started to starve myself once again both my mental and physical states would become irreparable. When electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) had been suggested before, I had always written it off because I felt protective over my memory and intellect, given that so many other parts of myself had been suffocated by depression and starvation. There is also such pervasive opinion and stigma from so many areas of society, even the psychological community. I know that some even still find it difficult to forget the shocking content of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

By summer my situation had worsened, and after three concurrent hospitalizations, I was brought to a well-known ECT center where I agreed to hear them out. I am so glad that I did because when I was forced to sit down with myself and think about why I was so fearful of the procedure, I came face to face with all of the subjective falsities I was holding onto. ECT does ultimately effect your memory, but not always necessarily in the drastic manner portrayed. You are anesthetized for the actual procedure, and for me it took less than 10 minutes. I was observed and given constant care until I was fully recovered. Most important of all, ECT has remarkable results for many.

I am not the typical ECT patient. I am a 25-year-old who, thanks to ECT, is also a full-time college student after a seven-year hiatus because of constant illness and hospitalizations. It’s challenging to juggle treatments and college, but ECT unequivocally saved my life and kept me stable enough to return to being a college student, which is a crucial aspect of my self-identity.

I am reaching out to everyone struggling with mental illness who has written off ECT because of “what they’ve heard.” Stigma is a powerful force. We mostly think of how it shapes opinion, but when it comes to ECT stigma, it can shape lives. It can deny the opportunity to save lives. I’m stealing the theme of NEDA week in saying – “It’s time to talk about it.” Electroconvulsive therapy is not brutal or painful or inhuman — it can be a powerful tool in giving people with debilitating mental illness a chance to be more than a patient; a chance to be more than their pain.

Editor’s note: This piece is based on an experience of an individual and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Ingram Publishing

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I Don't Believe Depression's Lies Anymore, but Sometimes They're Hard to Ignore

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Depression is a liar.

I said it.

Even though I have always known it, sometimes the lie is a little too easy to believe; the ache is too heavy to handle and my heart just hurts too much. But it is still a liar.

My depression came slowly, and then all at once, first a just a little heartbroken, and then it was an all-consuming I-wish-I-was-dead kind of thing. I believed the lies it was telling me and everything just seemed too much.

It was too hard to get out of bed, to take a shower, to do anything but watch Netflix on my computer, hiding under the covers to try and hide from myself. I deleted all the social media off my phone so I wouldn’t have to see the perfection of the people I used to know. I shut myself in because I didn’t feel worthy, or honestly, anything. But depression is a liar.

I believed the lies it told me for months. Some days were better than others, and still are. At first it was good hours. Then good days. Now it’s good weeks. But even now I sometimes struggle. Not because I believe the lie, but because sometimes I can’t ignore the message before it gets to me.

And that’s OK. Because I have good days. And good weeks. And good hours. Because I have found joy in the littlest things. I appreciate things so much more than I did before. I cry at TV shows and movies. I laugh more.

I spend more time reflecting on the things I want, and I spend less time looking back. I wouldn’t change the past because it made me who I am. And I am so proud of the person I have become.

I still have days. And I’m still recovering in so many ways. But I’m better than I was. Stronger than I was. I have more grace than ever.

Because I no longer believe the lie. Because depression is a liar. Because joy is here to stay.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Allexxandar

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Why 'Reaching Out' Doesn't Always Feel Like an Option When I'm Struggling With Depression

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Often the most painful part of depression is the effort I have to make to hide it. If you have never experienced depression, you may not understand the need I feel to hide it. You may never comprehend the shame and embarrassment I feel. All the while my family and friends say things like, “Maybe if you reached out, things could get better.”

For me, it often feels like doing so won’t help. I feel like all it will do is add pressure to every move I make. I feel like I would have to question every action I take to make sure you don’t think my problems are bigger than they actually are.

I don’t want you to worry about me, and I definitely don’t want to see the look of pure terror on your face every time I have a bad day.

A common misconception is people with depression or anxiety don’t reach out because they don’t trust you. In my case, that could not be further from the truth. I do love and trust you.

I want you to think of me as a strong friend who can be a rock for others. I want to be someone you can lean on. If I told you everything, I fear you would think I’m “damaged goods.” Then what? My loved ones might start treating me like a patient in a hospital, observing my every move. I feel like I would lose any sense of “normalcy” I have managed to maintain.

It may sound “crazy,” but telling you would really be like fully admitting it to myself. I have depression and it scares me. What scares me more than this is the thought of you leaving because of it.

I know you don’t always think I can do it on my own, but I want you to let me learn how. When I was learning how to ride a bike, you didn’t ride it for me, did you? I believe the only way I can learn to live with my depression is if you let me.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via JZhuk.

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