It was the worst of times.
Anxiety had been a problem for several years, but it only seemed to be getting worse. So, I went to see a doctor.
I lived in a small town and a general practitioner was my only option. There were no psychiatrists or psychologists for 200 miles. I had no health insurance, so it didn’t really matter. I went to the first person who would see me.
“So, what the problem today?”
I dove into a brief history about how I started having panic attacks in college; how I’d tried two medications and they made things even worse. I had told it to doctors before:
Everyday, I feel like I can’t breathe. I want to run. I’m worried I’ll swerve my car off a cliff because I no longer have control of myself. I don’t want to die, but I feel like I’m dying!
I told him about how this feeling was getting in the way of things I love to do, and for five minutes the doctor listened.
“Well, this is a common problem. I see many people with anxiety, some much worse off than you. Some people have such bad anxiety they don’t even leave their house.”
He wrote me a prescription for a medication I had been prescribed before. I was confused. I had just told him how this medication didn’t seem to help me before and the 2-week withdrawal was unbearable.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Are there any other options. Therapy, maybe? Or, another medication?”
“Well, yes.” he said. “Therapy has been shown in studies to help. I could give you the name of a local community group. Yoga, maybe. But really, there’s no substitute for medication. This is the one that works.”
“Well, would it be possible to…”
“Listen,” he said, annoyed now. “You’re always going to have this problem. So, basically, you can take this medication or not. It’s up to you.”
I went home that day completely dejected.
The only thing that kept me going was that I knew there had to be light on the other side of the dark cloud. I forced myself to believe that. I didn’t know how to get there, but I refused to accept that this was it. I couldn’t believe that I would be like this forever. If I believed that, I wouldn’t have had the strength to go on.
I’ve seen many doctors and therapists since that visit, and I’ve told them all this story.
“My god! What an asshole!,” is the universal response. “I’m so sorry.”
It gives me faith in the mental health field to know that these other professionals feel these same ways about this doctor as I did.
Since that time, I’ve found better doctors. I’ve had varying degrees of success with different medications and therapies.
What I wish I’d known then, which I know now, it that he was not all wrong. My anxiety never left altogether. I still have it to this day.
The subtle but all-important difference in bedside speak is that, though the anxiety may remain, it can be conquered.
Everyone has a dark side to their brain chemistry, but some see deeper into it than others. You can never “un-see” clinical anxiety. But you can come out the other side, better and stronger.
Even when I was dealing with the worst of my anxiety I knew there had to be a way through it, and I even wanted to believe that there was even an upside, an advantage, waiting at the other end.
I waited for years, but I knew it was there. It is there.
You can get there too.