Which mental illness comes first?

One of the coolest things about blogging is that there are plenty of people writing about depression, or anxiety, or being a Christ follower, or maybe all of the three at the same time. But we each say it with our own story, in our own voice, and in that way we encourage each other.

I was reading a fellow blogger’s post about feeling alone and the vicious cycle of depression and anxiety -you can find her at https://frostedsmiles.wordpress.com. She said,

“Personally, I feel as though my depression and anxiety issues are the main components of my vicious circle; my depression is underlying and feeds into my anxieties, and feeling anxious makes me feel low and depressed, and so on.”

It got me to thinking about my first appointment with my first psychiatrist.  It was over 7 years ago. My therapist determined that I had gone from Adjustment Disorder to Major Depressive Disorder, and it was time to see a doctor and try some medication. Therapy alone wasn’t cutting it. I arrived at my therapist’s office, the doc took appointments there – it was dark outside and late fall, so maybe 6:00pm. A migraine was just starting – I didn’t know it was going to be a bad one. The doctor came out and escorted me back to his office. My first thought was, “Hey, I think this furniture used to be in my therapist’s office.” He pointed to the couch for me to sit, and he sat in the matching chair – perpendicular to me. He took off his glasses and cleaned them. He asked me some general questions – why are you here to see me? tell me a little bit about your meetings with the therapist, etc. As he was listening, my headache started intensifying. And then I found it hard to hear him – like he was talking with his mouth full of cotton balls. When I looked up at him (I was mostly looking at my lap) he looked like he was beyond a waterfall. My mind drifted, and I had to really focus to hear him through the water or even understand the questions through the cotton. He asked me if I felt ashamed. I had no idea what he meant. Then he started in on the psychological definition of shame, pulled out a book to reference, and showed me…something. I didn’t hear what he said next; I was trying to figure out if I was ashamed or just super sad or very anxious and why won’t my head stop pounding?!

And then he asked, “So are you depressed or anxious?” I wanted to hit him! Now, I’m not a violent person in any way – I’m still learning to express my anger – but my head hurt so much! I thought but didn’t say (oh, how I wish I had) – “Well, isn’t that what you’re supposed to tell me? You’re the doctor!” Instead, I calmly mumbled, “How do I know?” He then asked the same thing but in a very different way, and it broke through the cotton balls and waterfall.

“If the depression was gone – if you weren’t feeling really sad, would you still feel anxious? Or if the anxiety was gone, would you still feel super sad?” That was easy to answer. “The second one.”

“Ok,” he said, “then you have depression.” And he wrote out a script and I took it and left the office.

As I walked down the hallway to leave, still looking through the waterfall of my migraine, my therapist was standing at the front desk – I think he had stayed late to see how it went for me with the doc. I smiled weakly through my headache and told him I was really glad he was there. It was good to see the face of someone who knew what I was feeling, and I didn’t have to say anything.

One thought on “Which mental illness comes first?

  1. kbailey374 January 15, 2015 / 9:15 am

    re: “…depression, or anxiety, or being a Christ follower.” I am all 3 plus bipolar. Nice to “read” you!

    Liked by 1 person

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