On Mental Health

Part One: Describing The Music

As I’ve been getting treatment through this year’s mental health downturn, I’ve started to notice a roadblock that might be getting in my way. Don’t get me wrong, my medication adjustment and my sharpened weapons in my arsenal are helping…but I think I’m doing something that’s really prohibiting the professionals in my life from giving me adequate treatment and counseling.

I don’t think I’m being completely honest with them.

It’s not like I’m lying and saying, “I feel great!” when I don’t. That’s an obvious black/white lie that I would recognize as I was saying it. Instead, what I think I’m doing, is trying to format my problems into some sort of narrative before each visit/session. Like…I think I’m trying to make sense of the chaos in my head before I present it to them.

I don’t think I noticed I was doing it until recently, but because we lost our insurance I have a bit more time before sessions with my psychiatrist and I’ve caught myself a few times prepping for the October visit and I’ve noticed I’ll change the way I phrase things in my head in preparation. And now that I’ve noticed that I’m making these weird adjustments I’m starting to think about how I go into every psychiatrist and counseling session for the past few years.

If you ask me – I know not to do this because the very first time I sought counseling was when I felt like my grief over losing my Dad was still tearing up my life and it turned out: IT WASN’T GRIEF OVER LOSING MY DAD! After just a few sessions she got me processing some of that grief in a way that dug up some underlying shit and that ended up helping SO MUCH of my depression during that time.

So, I understand how important it is to let the process unfold naturally and let the professionals do their work. But, I think I still really want my mental health care team to be impressed with me and my progress and so I think I’ve started – almost trying to self-diagnose? Maybe? And now that I have caught myself doing that in preparation for a visit, I think I’ve also done it during visits. Like…I think I have led some of the visits in directions that fit the: Kim is doing such a good job working through her anxiety and depression narrative! performance I’m evidently orchestrating. But I don’t think I realized I was doing it until recently.

So now, every time I find myself “prepping” for the next visit…trying to figure out how to phrase my response to the inevitable, “So, how are you doing?” first question…I am trying to stop myself. Instead of figure out how to present my mental health in some sort of, “This is what I’m doing and see how it’s making me better but I still have to work on this,” type of weird response…I’m trying to find a simple and honest answer to the actual question, “How are you doing?” And then let him ask the follow-up questions and not try to present myself as some sort of 5-Star Mental Health patient.

The simplest answer? I have good moments when I’m laughing with my kids (which is often, thank god for funny children) or reading or bullet journaling…but the overall undercurrent in my brain is still very bleak. The constant worry is wearing me out. The dread is zapping my ability to care for myself properly. The hum of anxiety is always in the background. The tools in my arsenal are great for in-the-moment panic surges, but I still have yet to silence/mute the orchestra of despair.

AH. Orchestra of despair. I think that’s a good description. It’s like there’s the woodwind section of “Political Instruments.” There’s the flute of dreading several different election outcomes, the piccolo of pain associated with loving people who will vote for Trump, the clarinet of systemic racism etc. Then there’s the string section of “Motherhood” where the violin of Navigating My Kid’s Needs During The Pandemic plays alongside the viola of Becoming And Educator When I’m Not Trained.

Yeah. I think that’s a good way to describe it. Maybe instead of trying to walk in with my own diagnosis narrative I’m trying to fit my problems around, I need to walk in with a better way to describe what’s actually happening in my head on any given day. That there’s the orchestra playing in the background and sometimes I can have fun with my kids and not think about the music, but it’s always there. And if I’m not actively experiencing joy, my brain will focus in on certain instruments when the specific worry feels louder, or sometimes they have their own solos, but for the most part the orchestra plays as a whole together all the time.

I’d like to experience the joyful moments without the hum of the orchestra tainting everything. Or maybe I’d just like some quiet periodically.

Okay…I don’t have time to write anymore but my brain just jumped around to some interesting conclusions so I think I’ll call this one PART ONE and will come back and write PART TWO tomorrow.

1 thought on “Part One: Describing The Music”

  1. Maybe try this. Google a feelings wheel. Have one for each week. Color code each day. Then every day . color in just a section of that piece of the pie. You wont be able to erase it, and there will be a picture of what you were feeling each day. Now to follow my own instructions and get to work.

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