I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression issues for as long as I can remember. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes twelve years ago at the age of 22, I began to experience prominent physical symptoms of anxiety and depression which often manifested as uncomfortable gastrointestinal and stomach upset. Some months ago I had a colonoscopy and a gastric endoscopy. There was nothing clinically wrong with me, except the one place nobody looked. My mind.
On the advice of a fellow Type 1 friend whom I admire and get advice from fairly often on this topic, I got a referral to a psychologist. The act of going down this road was alien to me. I’ve never been here before because it was never suggested to me that my problems could be psychological. So I made an appointment with a psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy.
It was really difficult for me. I don’t like talking to people, especially about myself.
The psychologist, of Portuguese descent, was tall dark and handsome with a very kind face. He was soft spoken, like a stereotypical TV psychologist. I panicked about having to talk to him in a candid and vulnerable way for an hour. Throughout the session I told him three times that I was extremely uncomfortable and unhappy about talking to him.
My body expressed my discomfort. A layer of sweat covered me under my clothes. I was twitchy, and scratched the skin off my hand. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in a small and dimly lit room with a stranger who was interrogating me about the inner workings of my 35 years of life.
Things that came up in the first session included my childhood, school, and relationships with my family and friends. My feelings towards work, and my current marriage as well as my previous failed one. I talked in great detail about how I feel towards cycling – my passion – and how it affects me negatively.
The psychologist seemed most surprised when I spoke about how much I hate being around people and socializing. He didn’t discount my knowledge on sensory processing sensitivity either which was a relief. And he listened attentively as I described my fear of vomit in detail. I talked about it to the point of trembling. I held back tears the entire time thinking about how massively screwed up I am inside, and wondering if the psychologist was thinking the same thing. There was a box of tissues in the room, but I refused to allow myself to become vulnerable to the point of tears, though he probably heard them in my quivering voice.
What I hated just as much as talking about myself was that the psychologist kept his clock turned so I couldn’t see it. Not knowing how much time we had left made me anxious, especially when he kept looking at the time. Was he wondering how the hell this one person could have so much wrong with her, and how the hell he was he supposed to accomplish anything with her in 60 minutes? This chick is whack, he surely thought. And truth be told, we didn’t accomplish anything in 60 minutes. That’s the downside to a first appointment. I felt like the point of the hour was just so he could classify me into a particular mental illness group. Where would he stick me? Anxiety? Depression? Agoraphobia? OCD? He asked me many obvious questions trying to classify and/or rule out a particular disorder.
In order to stay for the entirety of my appointment, I had to stop wondering what I was doing there. I was finally taking a step to care for myself, I said over and over again in my head. It took all my might not to flee. I couldn’t stop thinking about how this guy was making a few dollars a minute and that made it hard for me to relax. I tried convincing myself he was educated and immersed in his industry to be able to help me and that I needed to quit with the preconceived thoughts.
At the end of the session, the psychologist handed me two separate surveys, one on anxiety and the other on depression. I checked most the boxes, which pegged me on the low end of severe generalized anxiety disorder. The second checklist indicated I am moderately depressed.
All that emotional spewing for something I’ve always known but never had a professional confirm of. Until now.
Severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Moderately Depressed. How does that sit? And what does that mean in terms of treatment and recovery? Will I need medication? I really don’t want medication. Can I afford this? Not really. I don’t have coverage for this kind of thing. Furthermore, how does this affect my diabetes care? The medications I was previously on seemed to really help but I think a side effect was weight gain which directly affected my ability to manage blood sugars. The multiple daily anxiety attacks are of no assistance either. The attacks release adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) which raises glucose levels, but at the same time, it’s impossible to predict exactly by how much. I get terrible anxiety with lows because they leave me feeling so nauseated, which pre-emptively gives me anxiety on top of the anxiety I get with nausea. Once a low starts I envision the nausea that always follows and so starts the anxiety trend. My diabetes could really use a break. Anxiety and diabetes are not friends. I hope to find a treatment or method that works for me and doesn’t involve medications. Am I dreaming of something that doesn’t exist though? These are the questions I’m desperately seeking answers for.
When I left the appointment I shut down immediately. I was overwhelmed and I couldn’t handle dealing with it. I didn’t think about what happened in the appointment until about a week later when I allowed myself the time to sit down and process. I was left with a lot of questions but no answers. I realize the first appointment is part of the process, and it was the hardest part. I’m also eager to move forward to examine my problems in depth. I’m hopeful that the next time I see the psychologist, he will prove worthy of his insane fee.