I was raised as a very self-sufficient person. My mother always told me never to rely on a man to take care of me (joke’s on her, I prefer women anyway). It is hard for me to ask for help in any capacity, especially when it comes to health, whether it be physical or mental. Throughout my years of involvement with the damaging sport of wrestling, my approach to injury was to wait and see if it got better on its own.
So when I started to feel like something wasn’t right mentally and not enjoying the things I used to like anymore, my natural inclination was to give it time, makes some changes in my life, and see if things got better. I was living by myself in Oregon at the time and had recently graduated from college all the way out in Kentucky, so that’s where my friends still were. After just a few months alone in Oregon, I called it quits and moved to stay with my best friend at the time who lived in Atlanta, Georgia. While that helped slow the progression of my depression, it didn’t help me heal and feel better. I tried working more, I tried working out more, I tried spending more time in nature, journaling, meditation, you name it, I tried it. Everything felt like a stopgap, and I felt like I was just surviving. This went on for months. I had no passion for anything, not even the sport that is my whole life. The end of the summer of 2020 rolled around, and I was still just kind of drifting; it seemed like all the colors were muted. I had a good job at a Covid-19 testing site, and I was busy enough to help keep the bad feelings at bay, but I was tired all the time. By the time I got off work, I had zero energy for anything else, but I thought that was normal of working a full time job.
In late October, I met someone. I really liked her, and even though we didn’t really have many interests in common, we really hit it off. Our budding relationship drove a wedge between me and my best friend at the time, and ended up creating a situation where I had to move out. The month of November was tough as I searched for a new place to stay and dealt with the sudden loss of a long friendship. More often than not, I’d drink my dinner after work. I lost 10 pounds. As much as I liked my new partner, the positive feelings felt muted. As she and another friend of mine helped me move out and shared their own mental health journeys with me, I started to consider the idea of getting help.
As December passed, I continued to put off seriously looking for help, making some halfhearted inquiries into therapy opportunities through my employer. I thought pretty much daily about driving into oncoming traffic, although I wouldn’t say I was seriously suicidal. I just was tired of feeling crappy and good things not making me feel good. At this point, I had been feeling crappy since the fall of 2019, and it was about to be 2021. It felt like a pressure was just building inside of me and it wasn’t getting better.
At the turn of the new year, I finally connected with a therapist through my employer. At first, I canceled and ducked appointments out of fear of vulnerability and fear of being someone who needed help or had something “wrong” with them. Even when I finally did attend a Zoom therapy session, the first couple sessions were not that helpful in fighting the dark feelings. My therapist was terrific and helped me work through accepting the fact that I do, in fact, have a mental illness, and that’s ok. Even so, therapy wasn’t enough to fix the chemical imbalance in my brain that had become my new normal. My therapist recommended I see a psychiatrist and look at medication.
My experience with the psychiatrist was not super positive in itself; she was an older woman who didn’t really understand gender identity and refused to put anything besides female/male under gender. She didn’t really seem interested in understanding my symptoms and just wanted to check off boxes on the form. As someone who struggles with feelings of worthlessness and being a burden to everyone, it really sucked to feel like the person who was supposed to help me didn’t really care. One of the things that has made it so hard for me to get help is that most mental healthcare experiences I have had felt more traumatic than helpful. In the end though, I got prescribed an antidepressant and got an antianxiety medication to use if I needed it. I felt so mistrustful of the doctor that I resolved not to touch the pills and threw them in the back of my truck to rot.
The next day I fished them out and started taking them.
It’s been about a week since I started the medication and maybe it’s the placebo effect, but I feel like it’s already making a difference. I sat down to write this post because I was reflecting on how “wired” I felt, but then I realized I was just approaching my energy level from two years ago, before I started hating everything in my life. I was stuck in a hole for so long that I almost don’t know what to do with a normal energy and motivation level. I’ve worked out on my own more this week than I have in MONTHS. I’m excited to go to wrestling practice again, and I’m excited to coach my college team this weekend. Food tastes better and is more filling. I don’t know if it’s the pills themselves or just the process of getting help, but I’m doing better. I’ve been able to confide more in others with what I’m going through, with the help of my therapist. I’m not just coping anymore, I’m healing. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to need help, even if it’s in the form of a pill. I take Benadryl during allergy season, so why wouldn’t I take a pill to help my brain feel better too?
Get help. It’ll be worth it!