It’s official. My diagnosis is severe depression and anxiety. Initially, I thought I’d feel elated to finally receive this validation, to know that I wasn’t just imagining this stuff, but I quickly became so confused all I could do was cry. But in that cry, came a sort of clarity. This was depression. That feeling of hopelessness was no longer an abstract feeling. I could now name the manifestation of a thing I knew existed. I could call it out by the ways it would show up in my daily life.
Reflecting on the state of my life and my diagnosis
I remember watching an episode of Criminal Minds several months ago and Dr. Reed pointed out that a messy room could be a sign of depression. I felt convicted when I heard it. Last Saturday, as I stared down at the floor I haven’t been able to see in at least 3 weeks, I finally understood my pain. I took pity on myself for having to deal with my own lack of understanding and pushing myself too hard as a result. Academia is marked by productivity. Everybody around you is producing, so you should be too. I thought about all those unfinished projects, all the things I desperately wanted to do but couldn’t bring myself to see through. I thought I was merely careless and unmotivated. Reconciling perfectionism and depression: that battle is too ugly for words.
Then there’s the rationalizing. This is what I do best. To be able to live with the canceled plans and thwarted personal goals, I find ways to make it make sense. For most things, I postpone until it eventually goes away. The thing inside me that’s supposed to see things through until the end isn’t dedicated to the task, it only clocks in when it feels like it.
The Journey to Seeking Help. (Again)
I searched high and low for a black woman who did psychiatry who would also take guhhment insurance. It took weeks of digging through broken websites, dead ends, and googling everyone’s names until I could find a picture. Whatever it took. When I finally walked into this polished black woman’s office I knew my work had not been done in vain.
The only thing I am still grappling with is the idea that I’m “passive suicidal”. I always thought I would escape a suicidal diagnosis because I know I’m not capable of harming myself as previously expressed on the blog. But apparently, not caring if you wake up in the morning definitely puts you on a “we gotta keep an eye on her” list. I’ll be honest, this alarmed TF outta me. I was just genuinely confused and hurt that it took this long because I’d been wishing I were (peacefully) dead on and off for a long time.
The anxiety is something I’ve only recently started paying attention to. Previously, I just didn’t understand it. But now that I’ve had the space to reflect on it, my physiological responses to stress are quite noticeable. I can also be a real “let me calm these nerves and go to sleep” type of wine drinker. In time, I’ll learn how to best handle it. It just creeps on me real dirty like.
Why this diagnosis is important
The clarity is key. If I can have a name for a thing and an idea about how it works, I can proceed to deal with it and be conscious of its presence. I also needed the validation that I received with an official diagnosis. I needed to be able to summarize my life into a word instead of a long fumble of confused and rambling sentences.
This is also important for the trajectory of my academic career. I’ve recently found out that I can receive some university supported accommodations to buffer the damage my state of mind can cause. All those unfinished assignments and days I couldn’t bring myself to show up to class… or those days I forced myself to get ready for class in tears. I potentially don’t have to put myself through that anymore.
For my black women out there, I’d like to recommend the Therapy for Black Girls directory, which includes participating Black women therapists across the country. The founder of the site also has a podcast that you might want to check out. I’ve also been listening to the AFFIRM podcast. Both can be found on iTunes.
I also want to shoutout blog The Bipolar Writer for giving me the inspiration and courage to write this post.
To everyone: I implore you to check your mental health just like you would check anything else.