by: Kiki Kirk
Anxiety, Depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder can all be found on my Mental Health Resume. There was a time when I would have been too shy to talk about these things, too nervous that it would change people’s opinions of me. But now I see the importance of sharing my bouts and experiences with anxiety and depression. The following is my recollection and acceptance process of the mental illnesses that have made me stronger.
My history with anxiety began in fourth grade. I worried about things that were absolutely unreasonable to worry about. I would use “What if…” to begin every single sentence. I would think up impossible situations and become obsessed with them becoming true. At one point I had to take two weeks off of school because I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving home to be there. Even though it was so long ago, it is hard to forget what that kind of panic feels like.
I began to see both a psychiatrist and psychologist. The differences between the two were immense. My psychiatrist, Dr. Lam, had an office with strictly black and white décor and it always very cold. Looking back, the memory of her office is strikingly similar to Winona Ryder’s house in Beetlejuice. Post-modern. I remember each time I sat in the large chair on the other side of her desk, my feet dangled above the ground. She would quickly ask matter-of-fact questions in her thick accent. I felt like I was being quizzed, like I could never answer fast enough. She wrote down my answers on a legal pad, in what looked like a flowchart. To this day I don’t understand why she did that.
My psychologist, Pat, was a whole different story. For one, I was able to call her by her first name! Imagine that, an adult who let me call her by her first name. We instantly became pals. When I went to Pat’s office and it was cold, there was a fun blanket I could use to keep warm. We actually had conversations where she asked me questions and really listened to my answers. Then she gave me advice on how to handle my worries at home and at school. Some of these tricks I still keep in my back pocket to use if I ever need them. I felt like she was truly there for me and I trusted everything she said.
Dr. Lam prescribed the medication and Pat helped my worries evolve into rational thoughts.
After about nine months of this I began to start feeling like myself again. But it would have been impossible for me to have made it out unscathed. In the years to follow I had a few less intense and much shorter brushes with anxiety. I would go to therapy and work through the rough patches with Pat if I needed it.
There are pieces of my personality and thought processes that I attribute to my anxiety. I am a much more cautious person than most. I think things through a hundred times (quickly) before I make a decision. I weigh the “what ifs” but no longer in an obsessive way.
In high school, the winters began to be a struggle. No matter what I said I was going to spend the winter doing, without the sun I felt no motivation. So much of my happiness depended on the sun. It was as though I was two completely different people, a creative, driven, happy person in the spring and summer and a boring, unmotivated, sad person in the fall and winter.
It was after about the second cycle of this that I decided it was time again for help. I began seeing a different psychiatrist, as my days with Dr. Lam were over. After one session she prescribed me antidepressants and suggested I get Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy lamp. I’m not sure if it was the medication or the lamp I sat under each morning or a combination of both, but I began feeling better. I was feeling in the winter how I would feel in the summer. I have continued with this regiment and it is continuing to work.
With that being said, I realize that there are some people who have very strong opinions on medicating for anxiety or depression. There are people who believe that those medications are numbing feelings and emotions and turn people into zombies. There are people who believe that pills are an easy way for a doctor to shut a patient up. There are people who believe that a person is weak if they can’t deal with their issues without relying on the help of prescription drugs.
While some of these assumptions can be true in some cases, none of them are true in mine. I know this is a cliché thing to say, but I’m not sure where I would be if it weren’t for the medication I have taken at various points in my life for anxiety and depression. In my case, the medication took away the dark parts of me and only left the light. It took away the nervous anger and left the confident optimism.
I really feel as though I’m a better person after having experienced all of these things throughout my life. I feel now that I’m better able to relate to and understand people because I have patience. I understand how hard it can be to deal with the thoughts in your head, so I feel that I can easily work with people. I realize that communication is one of the most precious things we have and use as human beings. I fear misunderstandings and do everything in my power to avoid them. It is because of this that I am able to communicate with others so well.
I knew that it wasn’t going to go away, and with the help of my family and support systems, I was able to shape it into something that existed on my terms. At this point in my life, I don’t see it as defeat, but rather as a tool to help me own my depression instead of allowing it to own me.
Kiki Kirk is a writer, painter, and coffee drinker who studies at Columbia College. She makes a zine called Glass Sea and can usually be found hassling people for submissions. She identifies as queer and is trying to educate herself and those in her life about feminist, gender, and sexuality issues that exist globally.