I think I’ve lost my focus a bit. When I started writing a couple of years or so ago, the purpose was to document my illness and track my progress; or lack thereof. Lately however it’s developed into something more thought out and creative. (Or at least an attempt at creativity). I intended to just pour out my thoughts and emotions, raw and unedited as my summary says. Very early in the process I decided to start a blog, thinking that maybe sharing my story would somehow help others. If nothing else, reading about what I was going through might make them feel better by comparison. I would write every day, documenting my mood and emotions. Now I’ve been looking for specific subjects and trying to make some kind of point. And I’ve had a difficult time finding things to write about.
So I’ve decided I need to go back to the beginning.
I think that with where I am in my treatment and how my life is going that it’s important to remember how I got here. I’ve been feeling really well for some time now; maybe even normal. Its’ easy to forget just about how difficult it’s been through the years. And now I catch myself thinking “Maybe I’ve been misdiagnosed after all. Maybe I don’t need the medicine anymore”.
There’s a risk in going back and recalling the past. As I’ve thought about things that I’ve been through I feel like I’m being pulled back. I really am crazy after all. I’m in a good place now, but it doesn’t change the horrors of before. But I think those memories raise the vigilance, which is important in not relapsing.
Enough explanation. Go back and remember.
I guess the starting point is in my early 20’s. It wasn’t the first time I had any kind of symptoms, but it was when I began to seek out treatment on my own. Back in the day our local government had a respectable mental health system with enough resources to provide real therapy. It’s a little strange, but I don’t remember exactly why I felt the need to go there. But I do remember in vivid detail my experiences while being treated there.
Walking in the door that first time took everything I had to make myself go in. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating. It was terrifying. But taking that first step wasn’t nearly as scary as not doing anything at all. I must have known that I had a problem even if I can’t recall specifics. But I do know that the way I felt was not normal, and that I had a problem.
But oh my God it was hard admitting it.
That first appointment is just as clear as yesterday. I sat in the parking lot a long time trying to screw up the courage to get out of the car and go in. My fear of being late and the anxiety of disappointment finally got me moving; I had an appointment, I couldn’t let them down by not showing.
The smell of the clinic has stuck with me even up until now. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was distinctive. It was a cross between a hospital and an office building. There was a smell of desperation there too. The fears, anxieties, sadness and hopelessness were tangible. The waiting area was full. And those waiting came from the full spectrum of society. There were the ones that were obviously homeless (for back then we cared about helping of them.). Sullen and angry teenagers were there, some with parents and some alone. They would huddle deep inside themselves or glare defiantly at those around them, just daring them to say anything. Overwhelmed mothers struggled to control their toddlers as they fought to maintain their responsibilities. Middle aged housewives crying softly in their own private misery. Men and women who were clearly mentally ill in the more ‘traditional’ sense; one look at them and you knew they were crazy. Old, sad people sat alone and forgotten. There were even a few people like myself, outwardly normal and not appearing to be there for treatment at all. That’s how I saw myself anyway.
I did not belong with these people. Why in God’s name am I here?
The trick was not to make eye contact. Flip through a magazine or hold a newspaper in front of you seemingly engrossed and ignoring everybody else. The worst was someone coming over to trying to strike up a conversation. I had to escape and make a dash to the restroom, praying that I could get back before being called to my appointment. These people were different; they belonged here. I felt bad for them, but did not want to be associated with them at all.
The urge to run was overwhelming.
But I stayed. I fought the panic and withdrew from everything and everyone there. My emotions and thought just completely shut down. I did everything I could to just disappear. But time was moving intolerably slow. I had arrived early thinking I would need extra time to fill out paperwork, but finished that in just a few minutes leaving me another 45 minutes to wait. I checked the clock telling myself I wouldn’t look again for at least 5 minutes, only to look again every few seconds. Finally, it was my time. But no one came to call me back. I became more and more anxious as I waited to escape and remove myself from this horrible waiting room. Now time was flying by. It was five after…now ten… And I started setting deadlines for myself. If no one comes out by a quarter after, I was leaving. Don’t they have any consideration for me? I was here early, why couldn’t they at least be on time? That time came and went, but there was no way I would stay more than 30 minutes. Fuck it, I’ve had just about enough. But just as I was about to storm out of the building the call came. A new panic set in, but I was so intent on getting away I almost ran down the hallway; anything to escape.
And I began a life time of therapy.
It’s strange, but I really can’t remember the feelings and circumstances that drove me to seek out help that first time. But even though it’s been over 30 years ago, that first appointment is burned into my brain and I can vividly see every detail and feel every emotion as though it just happened. I can feel myself tense up even now as I put myself back into that day. I must have been there for a reason, and it must have been something significant to push me through the absolute horror I felt. I felt I was different and I didn’t belong there with all the others who waited for their own appointments. There was nothing really wrong with me; I just needed a little help to get through my current circumstance. Looking back, I had no idea just how sick I was, or the life and death struggle that lay before me.
It was just the beginning.