my depression sucks but doctors suck worse

Part 1 of Many

Happy Mental Health Day!

I’ve been meaning to write about some of my experiences with depression, and since today is Mental Health Day, it seemed a good a time as any.

Depression and mental illness are getting talked about more and more. I think it’s great that influential people are talking about their problems, but sometimes (in my really humble opinion) that conversation doesn’t go far enough.

I’m not going to whine at you about how hard it is. We already know that, right? Instead, let me share my first experience seeking medical help.

I am eighteen. I am failing college.

I’ve never put a word to this thing that happens in the fall, but now I know it’s depression. One of my good friends tells me that’s what it means when you can’t care about anything and you can’t make yourself do the stuff you’re supposed to do. Like homework. Going to class. Get out of bed.

My first act of bravery comes easily. I call a doctor. It’s a doctor I’ve never met, because I’m far from home.

I’m socially awkward at the exam. I remember hoping he didn’t press me too hard about being depressed, because then he might find out I’m faking it. But I’m not, I’m totally not, and I can’t figure out how to stop. I need this. I need help.

He says normally he’d prescribe Prozac, but for me he’s thinking Serafem, a similar drug that’s often prescribed for female problems. That way I don’t have to be embarrassed to take the medication in front of the other girls in the dorm. They wont know what it’s really for.

There was no followup appointment.

There were no warnings of ‘if my symptoms get worse or if I get thoughts of suicide, seek medical help immediately.’ Looking back, that seems like something the doctor really should have mentioned. Definitely more important than the bit about taking a sister drug to hide what’s wrong with me.

I didn’t feel better. I felt worse. I blamed myself, my falling grades, the strain between my friends and how alone I felt. I began self-harming twelve days later and obsessed over suicide. After two full weeks on the medication, my symptoms eased. I’m lucky I lasted that long.

My friendships were saved but not my grades. Looking back, I could have tried to communicate with my professors about what was happening–beg for a second chance or three. I never considered it, because even my doctor thinks it should be a secret. Depression is something to hide.

It took me more than fifteen years to realize how wrong this was. That the doctor fucked up. That I asked for help, and what I got was not good help, and not near enough of it.

I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Ever. We talk about getting help but not about what to do if your ‘help’ treats you like poorly or makes you feel worse for having a problem or dismisses you.

When you’re at your worst and you need help the most, it’s hard–make that impossible–to distinguish all the distress you’re already feeling from the shame of being treated poorly. We have an expectation that doctors will treat us with respect and dignity. Sometimes they don’t.

Please know–this shit happens and we need to talk about it. We need to talk about how a doctor’s appointment should go, about how mental health conversations should develop, and how it’s completely okay to ditch a problematic doctor (and find a better one.)

PS–if you want a happy ending to this story, the good friend who encouraged me to get help fifteen years ago is still in my life. He’s my husband.

Shameless promotion: This isn’t the first time I’ve written about depression–my experiences come out in my stories, too. Writing parts of Demonspine were hard for that very reason–depression and suicide are a problem that a character faces, and at times I wanted to give up and take that part out because it was so raw, and it felt like I was baring my soul to the world. Maybe I was, a little. But I kept it in, because I feel strongly that we need mental health in stories and media–the ugly, the raw, the uplifting, the sad. I kept it in because the conversation about mental illness can’t stop with internet celebrities admitting they suffer from one. Let’s keep this conversation going.

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This entry was posted in rude rants, rude writes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to my depression sucks but doctors suck worse

  1. God, I so agree with your words.

  2. Pingback: my depression sucks but its mine to choose | barb rude's blog

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