All pseudonyms are based off a person or character who inspires the interviewee: Emma Watson for her women’s advocacy and because I’m a Harry Potter geek.
This story may be triggering for its mentions and descriptions of self harm, suicide and mental illness.
I’ve been dealing with mental illness for as long as I can remember. However, it didn’t become a huge problem until I was about 11 or 12. I guess between school and my classmates, puberty and my fading religion, I was experiencing a fair amount of stress and it manifested in ugly ways…
I was always very depressed and I started self harming, although it was minor. At 15, my normally fantastic grades were now slipping dramatically, I was suicidal and I was still hurting myself. After I did a poor job of cleaning up one night, my mother found bloody toilet paper in the trash bin and she asked me about it. I broke down and told her I was struggling. She took me to my GP the next day. He was pretty dismissive but he did prescribe me an SSRI to help with the depression. It didn’t do much but I stayed on it for 3 or 4 years until I decided I didn’t need them. By this point, I had managed to stop self harming. I wasn’t doing great, but my boyfriend kept me functioning well enough to get by.
Fast forward to age 21 and I had just graduated with an Associate degree and had a job in my preferred field. My father immediately made me move out, even though I insisted that I wasn’t ready and I was terrified to live alone. I rented the top floor of a small duplex and my life consisted of working, sleeping and caring for my pets. I felt abandoned. I started self harming again, this time much worse than I had as a teen. I ate, at most, one small meal a day, but I often went a couple of days without food. If I ate more than that, I purged. I was obsessed with losing weight. My boyfriend made me look for professional help, but it was so difficult to find quickly that it actually made my mental state worse. One day, I reached a breaking point and my boyfriend took me to a local emergency room. Long story short, I ended up in a mental hospital for a week and going back on medication, this time a different SSRI and an anxiolytic.
I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and now bipolar II, although I don’t agree with the latter. On any given day, I may deal with wild mood swings, intense anger, anxiety, panic attacks, self harm, suicidal ideation and planning, depression and a general feeling of hopelessness, and dissociation. I’m currently on four different psychiatric medications and I’m still searching for a doctor who can truly help me. Good doctors are very hard to come by.
It’s been unbelievably difficult to get adequate mental healthcare. In total, I’ve seen eight different doctors in different situations about this stuff over my lifetime and seven have been in the past two years. I’m on my way to see my ninth doctor in three weeks. Out of all of those people, I’ve only liked a single one. She was the first doctor I saw after I got out of the intensive outpatient program I started after my hospital stay was over. I think she embodied what a good doctor should be. She took as long as was needed to discuss my concerns before she put me on any new medications or made changes to existing ones before we discussed it. I knew what to expect and she never dismissed me when I had a concern that may have seemed a little silly and she was easily accessible.