Not to flex or anything, but my psychiatrist said I could step down from monthly visits to being seen every two months.
Psychiatrist appointments are a fact of life, just like going to the gas station or eating breakfast. They become, after a time, mundane and even annoying. Being the people-pleaser that I am, I want to be a good patient, to get a gold star and an A+, even from the psychiatrist, so it was pretty exciting when he told me I didn’t need to be seen as often.
A few weeks ago, I had a follow-up appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I saw their head of the psychiatry department, Dr. B., and the first thing he said to me was, “I would be an absolute moron if I suggested changing your medications.” I look different on paper. Dr. B. repeatedly said, “You’re not the person I was expecting to see sitting here.” From the endless charts and reports describing everything that’s wrong and disordered about me, I suppose this doctor had surmised that I would be a delusional, shy, and unkempt individual, not the articulate, lively person that I am. (There’s also a lot that could be unpacked here about the stigma of mental illness and judging a book by its cover, but we’ll save that for another day.)
Dr. B. wrote in small, squarish handwriting on a legal pad as he asked me about my experiences and beliefs. The point of this visit was to establish me as a regular patient of Dr. B., in case my medications did need to be changed and my current psychiatrist needed to consult with someone else. One of my biggest fears is that my current medication regimen will just stop working one day, and I’ll be back to square one. Dr. B. assured me that that is unlikely, and my mom (who accompanies me to these sorts of things) and I went home feeling reassured.
Even on my best days, I still feel like the majority of the time, I am unable to control my thoughts. Lately, I haven’t been troubled by many hallucinations or other psychotic symptoms, but what has been bothering me are thoughts of the past. I do my best to minimize my triggers and to appropriately cope with the ones that can’t be avoided. Animals used to play a big role in my psychotic thinking, so if I see a photo of a snake on social media or something, I just scroll on by. I don’t hang onto screenshots of conversations I’ve had with people who used to tear me down. I don’t check up on social media accounts of people who have hurt me, and I unfollow pages that post content I find upsetting.
Still, it feels like my baseline is anxiety and that my thoughts act of their own accord. In the past, when I was especially consumed by trauma, I would seek out “vent art” on social media and force myself to read things like Roxane Gay’s Not That Bad. Of course, when I flooded myself with media like that, I was constantly thinking about my own trauma.
On the other hand, repression doesn’t work too well for me. As much as I would like to pretend that my trauma happened to someone else or didn’t happen at all, the reality is that I did go through all of it, and although it may not have been my fault, it is up to me to decide what to do with it. For lack of better words, having to make that decision on a daily (or sometimes hourly) basis, really sucks. Much like getting a flat tire on a cross-country road trip, I did not account for this barrier when I was mapping the journey of my life.
I am one of those “write what you know,” kind of writers. You will never catch me writing a thriller about a detective, a story about dragons, or anything like that. Nearly everything I write is at least somewhat based on my own experiences and emotions. Writing and photography are a means for me to move through emotions, to give myself closure when no one else can. I feel as though I have no choice when it comes to what I think about. In the words of Bear Hands, “Nothing good happens past 2:00 AM.” When I’m up late, ruminating about all the ways I could destroy myself, I sometimes forget that the people who tried to destroy me did not succeed.
So I will keep making my weird stuff. This may be how I feel on the inside a lot of times, but getting it out of my system instead of continuing to internalize it may be the best I can do right now. As my mom consistently reminds me, I’ve done the hard part, I survived.
As always, I am hesitant to post things like this. I do love to overshare on the internet, and when my audience is a blank screen, a mailing list, or semi-anonymous names of followers, it’s easy to throw these images out there. Then, I go to work or see my family and people will mention that they’ve read this blog. Much like Anna Ladd’s series Things I Told the Internet, but Didn’t Tell my Mom, it is relatively less daunting to create something like this and then put it down for a while, than it is to just say, “I am in pain and I don’t know what to do,” to someone in person.
One thing that I have learned recently is that the only way out is through. In the words of Machine Gun Kelly, “I gotta go through shit to keep writing.” I would prefer not to continue going through things like what I’ve already endured, but what I do know is that as long as I keep writing, I will be okay.