“Do you fear death?”
That was the ONLY question on the two tests I had to take at my doctor yesterday that I gave myself a “zero” value. They were tests to rate my anxiety and depression and there were questions with number scales and they would add it all up and decide what range you were in. I experience everything on both tests at least a little bit, except that one. I don’t fear death. I did when I was religious, but not now. I fear pain, I fear fear, I fear illness, but I don’t fear death. I was really proud of myself because I thought: Since most people fear death, this means I’m going to score better than most people.
Nope. She was very concerned. “Um…the way you described what you’re going through I expected a ‘severe’ on the anxiety scale, but you tested ‘severe’ on the depression scale too. Have you ever been diagnosed with depression?”
“Wait. But I don’t fear death! Don’t I get bonus points for that one?”
Depression has never ranked more than as a “side effect” of my anxiety but truthfully – I knew I was showing signs of depression lately. The “things that used to bring joy no longer bring joy” symptom is like a “DEPRESSION” neon sign. So, I wasn’t really surprised we were discussing it, I was surprised that my score was so concerning.
“You are definitely a candidate to try medication. You are suffering with SEVERE symptoms. We need to fix this. Can I ask you to show me your hands?”
This was a weird question but we had just been talking about my busted toenails so I kinda assumed the two were related and as I held them up for her, she took them and turned them over so she was looking at the tops as I was holding them out and she said, “Do you always shake like that?”
I was immediately embarrassed.
“Um. Not always. I really get nervous at doctors. That’s why you haven’t seen me since 2012. I’m really nervous.”
She took notes.
Then we talked about “normal” and how I seem to have a distorted view of “normal” because I don’t feel like I’m that far from “normal” but my tests indicate I’m quite far from the normal level of anxiety or depression.
“If you’re mentally healthy – so to speak – very few, if any, of these symptoms are present always. You seem to indicate that several of these are just part of your constant state of being. This is most definitely very far from the baseline of mental health we like to achieve.”
We also talked a bit about my reservations with medication. I explained that if it were someone I loved, I would be all over it. “MEDICATE YOURSELF!” I would shout it from the rooftops and hold their hand every time they got a prescription filled.
“But, it’s weird. I have this feeling that someone with a life as good as mine MUST be able to cope without medication. I know that’s not true when you apply it to anyone else, but applied to me? It’s different.”
“The fact that you have a privileged life and are still this miserable is exactly the proof you need that it’s chemical. If there are life situations that cause isolated cases of anxiety or depression, that’s something that we might not need to medicate. But your life is great and you are miserable. Your brain chemistry needs adjusting.”
And somehow, that worked with the part of my brain that was hesitant. She’s right! My life is great! I should be happy! Just like how humans should be able to walk on two legs but when you no longer can because of a broken bone, you have to get the bone fixed. My wonderful life and my increasing anxiety and depression are the proof I need to justify chemical intervention.
So I’m officially on Lexapro for now. 10mg daily and I check back in with her in 3 weeks because she said it will take that long for me to really tell if it’s working. I didn’t sleep much last night, but she warned me that’s a side effect that will fade. I do feel better having a plan and she never once made me feel inadequate for needing all of this. I don’t know why I’m able to look at everyone else in my life and say, “You deserve to be happy, and if that requires medication, do it.”
But I look at myself and only see the flaws and errors and mistakes of my life and think, “Welp. Maybe this is as good as it should get for me. Maybe I don’t deserve happiness.”
It’s so dark written out like that, but also so true when you dig under the cobwebs of my twisted brain.
But I’m happy to have a pill and a plan. It seems a lot of people I know are on Lexapro so let’s hope it works as well for me as it does for them!