To say that this has been a hell of a week is putting it mildly.
Thursday I had my appointment with my family doctor. I’ve been feeling sick (wet coughing), but mostly because the nice folks at the government offices don’t/didn’t believe that I have ‘issues with anxiety’. They don’t have papers, ok, fair enough. Guess I could just be someone who’s fucking the system. Here’s the thing though, I’m not. I now have the papers to prove it. There’s so much to say about finding out that I have Panic Disorder. I’ll try to keep it all… in order. More or less.
‘So you have panic disorder.’
There’s no such book. Well… ok, there probably is, but I sure as shit wouldn’t read it. I have this horrible habit of being arrogantly independent. This all stems from a number of things all through my life, which I’ll get to… some other day. I was a hyperactive kid who didn’t figure out that she was really a girl until about grade 6, my father left when I was 15, and I continue to this day to make bad life choices.
Hi. My name is Ardith and I’m a bad life-choice-maker.
Not to get too philosophical, but I’m torn between feeling like it’s not my fault, that I’m a product of my genetics and my environment, and feeling like yes, there are a number of choices that I made that I could, maybe, probably have made better. Then again, it could be both. It’s like there’s a marked divide between my wealth of logic and my impulse. Impulse is a beast that rises from below. It wears the mask of fun and frivolity, but in truth it ranges from the 7$ ice cream cone you really didn’t want to spend that much on, to the one night stand gone wrong. Maybe I’m just damning myself by bringing it up at all. Really, it leaves you open to blame me for everything wrong in my life. I’d like to think I’m not, but I know I am responsible for it.
Side-tracked. Finding out that I have panic disorder. Right. So.
So I find out I have panic disorder. It’s okay, though, it’s not like it’s a huge surprise. Kind of affirming, really- it’s nice to have it on paper now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come face to face with someone who thinks that because I know that something is wrong with me and because I’ve gone and researched it, and can therefore hold forth eloquently about it, it means I must be faking, or it must not be as bad as I’m making it out to be. Look up any symptom online and you have cancer, right? No, I’m not utterly lazy, I actually have gotten to the point where I’m debilitated by the idea of going out and being a grown-up. Even for things that I want to do. Nobody wants to go deal with their bank accounts, but I don’t think it sends most people to a 14 hour nap. I don’t think it stops people dead from sending in their art to a position they’re more than qualified because they might be turned down… or because they might actually succeed at something.
I’m choosing to be optimistic about this whole thing. I’ve started taking Wellbutrin. Doesn’t muck with my sex life? Awesome. Keeps me up? Meh. I would never have even considered taking medication if I hadn’t have talked to my aunt. I explained what’s been going on (see: they don’t believe I have panic disorder, and you can probably guess the hellish rigamarole they’ve been putting me through) then went on to explain that I’d been given the papers months ago to go get it affirmed that I have this thing. Well, fair play, but for some reason someone told me that I could go to a councilor, so I made an appointment. I showed up to my appointment, but it turns out the woman at the desk had made an appointment with a ‘general mental health specialist’ instead. No good. I make an appointment with a councilor.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to book appointments with mental health specialists of any kind, but it usually takes about a month. So I go to my counseling appointment (month 1 of frustration), only to be told that I ‘present well’ and basically she didn’t see that there was anything particularly wrong with me. I’m incredibly bright and I can dress myself well, and I communicate extremely well. So what’s the problem, right? Cue buzzer. Well, she can’t sign my papers, and she won’t refer me to the psychologist or the psychiatrist because she just doesn’t think there’s that much wrong with me.
I make an appointment with my family doctor. It’s a bit of a trek, and in hind-sight I should have just done it in the first place but I thought ‘Hey, if I use the resources through the government program I’m part of, they can communicate between themselves and this will all just be over so much faster. Cue buzzer. The time between my councilor’s appointment and the appointment with my doctor is another month. Another month of the same shit, extended.
So I tell my aunt all about this, and go on to explain how it feels for me. Why I think my councilor’s wrong. I have an anecdote that pretty much encapsulates the whole issue.
My mum took my sister and I to a bakery just around the corner from my grandpa’s place. It’s a bit buffet-style, all open trays with tongs for each tray, and empty bags at the end of each row of trays ready for filling with sweet pastry delights. My mum hands me a few bags and gestures at the trays, then wanders off. It’s the first time being there, and immediately I start to panic. She didn’t tell me how much I could spend. What if I go for everything that I want, it all looks so good, I’ll look like a pig. Mum strolls by casually and sees me picking up a cherry danish. She asks if I’m sure that I want that. I didn’t. I’d panicked, and her comment kicked my tiny furry fit into an avalanche. A… a furry avalanche. Imagine that a tiny furry fit is like a small, fur covered stone, and… look, just work with me on this one. So I feel myself start to lose control. I drop what I had into her basket and ask her as calmly as I could for her keys. She asks why. The air is stifling in here, I just need to get out. She hands me the keys and I’m doing everything that I can not to cry. My mind is racing. She thinks I’m too fat. She thinks I’m being greedy. How could I be so greedy, after she’s taken me out to dinner and bought me new clothes and shoes, and I didn’t need that danish, what on earth was I thinking of, taking that stupid danish in the first place? I don’t even like cherry. Why did I pick it up? Because I’m stupid and I’m greedy, and… and I sit in the car and cry. How embarrassing. Twenty-four, and crying in the back of a silver Toyota Echo, in the middle of a Toronto parking lot, in the middle of the day. I’m not being beaten, I was just asked if I was sure if I wanted that danish.
I’m sitting in the couch seat, feet tucked up under me, embarrassed and crying again as I tell my aunt about it. My mum and grandad stare at me, a little startled looking. My aunt nods. She tells me my uncle has the same kind of thing, and asks if I’ve considered medicating. I’ve considered it but I’m so afraid that I’ll lose everything that I am. My creative drive. My emotions, passion… everything that I feel makes me, me. She tells me not to rule it out. I’m not ruling it out I just don’t want… I’m just so afraid. I’m afraid of the pills that can take that fear away. She shakes her head and calls my uncle in, asks him to tell me about his experience with going on his medication.
My uncle is basically my favourite person in the world. He’s the reason I became an artist in the first place. Aside from my mother, of course, who nurtured me and my wealth of creativity from the get-go, but I mean in a real, self-defining kind of way. She nurtured my writing and my art and my talent for music and dance and basically anything that I wanted to do… but I chose art. I almost typed something sickly sentimental like ‘and it chose me’ but that’s not true. I’ve been working hard since I was in grade 5 to be an artist, specifically. He showed me the breakdown of how to draw Thumbelina, which he’d actually worked on. Start with a circle, line across to mark where the eyes go, line down the center of the face, draw the outline of the forehead, cheeks, chin, jaw, ear. Add eyes, nose, mouth, hair. It was like a light being switched on. Through the years we’ve gotten together mostly for big occasions, and I always treasure that time. He’s a never ending well of wit and awe-inspiring imagination and skill. He is the bar by which I mark myself- what I aspire to.
So he unfolds the spare chair and sits next to me as I wipe off my face with a tissue. He tells me how when he started on it, it totally neutralized him for the first four weeks. Nothing scared him, and nothing really mattered either. Something horrible or equally wonderful could happen and it would be a shrug-off. After, though, things normalized, but he still felt he had a bit of cushioning between where he wanted to be, and that awful feeling of your heart dropping. It’s what I needed to hear.
I asked my doctor what meds would be best for me, and related the stories I’ve just told. She listened intently. We discussed that while the brand that my Uncle takes could work for me, as we are blood-relatives, it would likely be better for me to take Wellbutrin due to being in a long-term relationship. I wouldn’t have even thought to ask about how it would affect my sex drive and I’m immensely, and immediately grateful that she caught that.
When I tell her the story about my bakery break-down she asks if my mind often goes to the worst possible scenario. You know how sometimes you’re looking at a picture of rocks and you spot one crab, and suddenly the whole picture is full of crabs? It was kind of like that. My whole thought process popped into stark clarity. My idle fascination with thoughts of careening into dividers in horrible fiery death while sitting in the passenger seat of a car. Imagining full-blown scenarios in which men try to break into the car and steal it while I’m waiting for my mother in the parking lot. Those are just regular daydreams.
It’s not like my tendency to go for the worst hasn’t been guided by a long string of events culminating in a number of abusive relationships. Some of them I knew exactly what I was getting into. I have a sort of sick fascination with hurting myself from the inside-out. I never could get the hang of cutting. Couldn’t be bothered. I had friends that did, but it never was followed by the same deep, sweet self-loathing that I could attain through just thinking about all the stupid shit I’d done in my life. The near-romance of being a fuck-up. The confused whirl of being both a very good and very bad person all at once. What can I say, I’m a multi-tasker.
My life is a bit of a soap opera, and I’ve done a good portion of it to myself. Some of it no-one deserves to go through. Some of it I’ve been debating about sharing. There’s a real peril in losing the sentiment behind the words.
So, I realize my brain goes weird places, and often. No, just because Ned has been being a little distant the past couple of days doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love me anymore. It means he hasn’t been sleeping or eating properly because he’s been dealing with me being in the hospital… (I’ll get to that tomorrow) …but that’s where my brain goes. My brain goes from zero to death faster than you can get your whole thought out. Now that I’m aware, I’m trying to rein it in. We’ll see how that goes.
This is day 5 of taking Wellbutrin. Still no real change. Can’t sleep but that’s not new. Well, actually I should go sleep now. There’s just so much to get out but my eyes feel like they’ve been replaced by bags of sand.
Tomorrow. Enough for now.