Today marks my first ever meeting with a psychiatrist. A good ole crazy people doctor for good ole crazy me.
The psychiatrist turns out to be a sweet, bubbly, round-faced young woman who looks more like a favorite elementary school teacher than a psychiatrist, but in a good way. I like her immediately. Finally, someone normal.
Side note: I get the whole psychiatrist thing. Decent money, and you get to learn about crazy people brains. Way more satisfying than being a therapist, if you ask me. I could do it, if, ya know, I don’t die first.
The psych takes me to her office and gets straight down to business screening me for mental illnesses. I find the process intriguing, yet highly flawed. I wish she could just see what’s in my brain and treat me that way, instead of relying on my responses to determine the problems with my life.
“Have you lost all interest in activities you usually enjoy?” Depression question, I think to myself. How can I be honest when I can essentially pick out my illness based on my answers?
“Do you have constant racing thoughts and worries?” Anxiety.
“Do you believe you have to do something over and over again, like turning your lights on and off or repeating certain words?” OCD.
“Do you sometimes suddenly feel intense negative emotions, such as fear, and physical differences, such as a racing heartbeat?” Panic disorder.
“Do you hate being the center of attention?” Social anxiety.
“Have you ever gone through or witnessed a traumatic event?” PTSD.
“Do you ever feel so excited or wired that you get into trouble and sleep less?” A manic bipolar state.
“Have you ever excessively exercised, taken pills, or starved yourself to keep your weight down?” Anorexia nervosa.
“Have you ever made yourself throw up to keep your weight down, or had periods of binge-eating followed by periods of starvation or purging?” Bulimia nervosa.
“Do you find yourself drinking or using recreational drugs more frequently than most of your friends?” Dependency.
The questions end as quickly as they started, and I wait for the shrink to see right through me, to recognize that I fabricated my responses, based on my hypotheses about which question matched each illness, and that I’m really not sick at all, I just know how to play the screening game.
But she’s not done yet. My psych then asks for my family’s mental health history. I tell her that my mom takes antidepressants. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Naturally, like mother like daughter, I too am diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I know that mental illnesses consistently show a strong genetic basis, so I am not surprised. I’ve assumed I have depression since middle school.
But on top of the depression, the psych gives me a big ole dose of anxiety. I had recently started getting panic attacks before big tests, but I didn’t realize my physical responses differ from any other stressed college student. Oops. Generalized Anxiety Disorder it is.
Self-harm and self-hate and self-esteem, oh my.
The psychiatrist prescribes me Prozac, the exact same medication and dose that my mother claims, “Changed her life” in 2012. And that’s what I need, some serious life changing, if I’m ever going to get out of these doctors’ offices. I’m more than willing to take the pills.
The psychiatrist explains to me all possible side effects, including an increase in anxiety and suicidal thoughts. She mentions something called serotonin syndrome. I crease my forehead. Aren’t antidepressants supposed to alleviate those kinds of things? I think to myself. But I don’t question the good doctor. She tells me that these side effects, if they occur at all, should relieve themselves after about a week.
“And please don’t hesitate to call if you think you’re going to hurt yourself,” she reminds me as I’m leaving.
I snort. Do doctors really think a person who’s going to hurt herself decides instead to make a phone call? There’s no way.
I’m ready to get my ‘script and go.
I wait by the pharmaceutical window at the student health center for a good 30 minutes before I receive my first bottle for my brand-spanking, fresh-out-the-womb new diagnoses. Window lady tells me to take 10mg of Prozac for one week, and then increase the dose of 20mg. Easing into the medication supposedly stifles the side effects. I’m not too worried, I’d rather just get this show on the road, but I promise I’ll take the drugs as prescribed.
“The psychiatrist plans to evaluate your progress weekly for the next month, when the pills should reach their full effect. But it will be an uphill battle. One day you will wake up and realize how much better you feel, even if you’re not perfectly cured yet. I hope you get better soon.” She says this plainly, as if I have a cold or the flu.
I roll my eyes and swallow my first pill in front of her.