“When did you first notice these symptoms?” I stared across the table at the dark skinned middle eastern man with the low voice. It was barely audible to be quite honest.
My eyes flicked to the file that he held. Rough check marks dabbed the edges where the papers earlier barraged me with questions. My own self evaluation.
It took me forty five minutes to complete. Thankfully, I had a pretty long wait in the lobby.
“Um…I don’t know really.” I racked my brain, “I guess I could remember feeling anxious and going through these periods of darkness as a teenager.”
“So,” he looked up compassionately, “It’s safe to say that you’ve been struggling with this for fifteen years.”
I nodded at his remarkable statement as the realization of it sunk in.
Fifteen years, had it been that long?
“But recently, but recently” he repeated, “It has become worse?”
I nodded again, “Yes, significantly.” I swallowed, “I guess the fact that I am here is a sign of that.”
I fidgeted a bit and his focus turned toward the hand that struggled to stay still atop my lap.
“Do you bite your nails?”
“Worse.” I extended long, bruise nipped fingers, “I bite at my cuticles until they bleed. It doesn’t stop me though. The pain or the blood. I’m used to it.”
Secretly this is why I avoid manicures. When I was young, about fifteen I guess, my mother took me for my first set of acrylic nails. I think it was my birthday or something like that.
The Vietnamese manicurist took one look at my fingers and laughed, “You eat your cuticles! Yum, nom nom nom.”
I knew he meant it in jest but now, now I apologize for my war torn hands every time I manage to leave my cuticles alone long enough to concur my fears and head to the nail salon.
My new psychiatrist continues to ask questions that I’m sure delve further into what spectrum of disorder I could be classified under.
No, I don’t hear voices.
No, I’ve never seen things that others could not see.
No, I don’t ever find myself talking excessively fast or acting out of character.
Yes, I avoid large crowds.
Yes, sometimes I want to run away.
Yes, sometimes I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up.
No, I don’t think that I’ve ever really want to end it all. I suddenly think to my ten year old son, Tyler.
No, definitely not. I shake my head.
There are days where I’ve really asked myself if I would’ve considered ending it, during the very difficult periods, if it hadn’t been for my son.
“How are things now?” his voice breaks through my distancing thoughts.
I look up and say, “Good. I mean they should be. Nothing in my life is the matter.”
“I’m newly married.” I say.
“I’m very much in love.” I say very honestly.
“I have a good job.” Financially yes, the job itself has been overloading me, or maybe that’s my disorder.
I haven’t really been able to cope with, or balance anything lately.
The job, my diet, my sleep.
I’ve started to drink. Everyday. I wait till the evenings usually. A glass of wine but that turns into a bottle usually.
Bloody Mary’s have become my new favorite. I can justify it in my own mind for their nutritional properties.
The other night I had four or five, a few beers, and a couple of shots.
I have a pretty high tolerance. My early twenties taught me a lot of what I can successfully consume.
I usually just aim for a buzz, and then I spend my time trying to keep it right there.
The sweet spot.
I always do it with Keith too. He’s my husband. He’s also my best friend. I’ve never found someone that I can drink with like I can with him.
I’m not afraid that I’m going to say something that I’m not supposed to, or be confronted with the jealous antics of previous relationships. He knows pretty much everything there is to know about me, and we aren’t ever sloppy drunk, we just reminisce. It can be poetic at times, until the very next day when I’m forced to face the real world and the unbearable anxiety that the night has left in it’s wake.
I tell the doctor that I drink to cope.
His eyebrows furrow.
I’ve displeased him.
He pulls out his notepad.
“I’m going to start you on an anti-anxiety medication. Two actually. The one is temporary, it’s for a cushion of relief until we build up the other one in your system. The goal is to get you back to feeling normal. I know that can be very difficult to gage, especially if you’ve been suffering for years, but you shouldn’t have any residue of these symptoms you’re currently experiencing.”
Both are foreign concepts. I’ve been an over-thinker for as long as I can remember.
Also, I’ve never been on anything. I’ve always been able to check “NA” on the list of medications I take.
I’m pretty healthy. By some aspects, I can be considered an athlete (I’ve competed in fitness shows and such). I’m not bragging. I just have.
Now, I’m faced with this.
I left his office with a new regiment. This every day regiment includes two bottles and a follow up appointment with him next week.
That same evening, I went to a hair salon and chopped off nine inches of my dark brunette hair. It’s light and caramel now.
I don’t really recognize myself in the mirror, and that makes me feel a bit better. I told my husband that I feel brand new.
I’m only two and a half days into my meds, and maybe it’s the fact that I’ve finally found the courage to seek help, or that I’m two days into the medication itself, or maybe it’s just this badass haircut, but I feel hopeful again.
I feel as if I could (maybe not today, or maybe not tomorrow) someday exhale and realize that (as they taught me in Yoga class) “I’m alright, right now.”