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Sunday, August 30, 2015

An Honest Post Part 3:
Therapists and Theories

I started seeing a therapist for the first time when I was seventeen, the summer before my senior year of high school.
Initially it was by my parents' persuasion--they were hopeful I could receive help coping with my ADHD especially in relation to my school work.
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was thirteen and immediately prescribed Ritalin. By the time I was in high school, I was on the highest dosage the doctor could legally prescribe and I was already developing an immunity to that too.
I was awkward. I chattered too much, laughed too hard.
I didn't mature at the same level as my peers, which left me socially inept, and suddenly I had a difficult time making and keeping friends. But when I started college and unwisely decided to just quit all my medications cold turkey, I learned something. Actually many somethings. I realized I had reached the point where I had been taking the medication, not to tolerate my disorder, but rather to survive the withdrawal I had otherwise. When I forget my pills, I became so lethargic I could not wake up and sometimes slept so deeply that I could be unconscious for several days in the extreme cases. I would have constant unbearable migraines that made me even more nauseated than I was already daily when on the medication, which was itself considerable. I had little to no appetite. I had always been petite, but on the meds, I didn't gain weight, and my body didn't develop at a normal rate. As a result, when I entered college unmedicated, it was like going through a second, somehow more awkward puberty. When taking the pills, I was so subdued, it felt like I had little personality, or at least, that I couldn't express it because my brain and my body felt separate and confused from each other. So when I quit, I was suddenly everywhere--energetic, social, healthy. I hadn't not felt sick in seven years. I could go on a road trip without vomiting, exercise without getting immediately light-headed. It was a revelation. I had friends, and even a brief romance. People enjoyed me, and found my "hyperactivity" more endearing than simply obnoxious.

But we could talk about my ADHD for a novel, and I have another point to make in this post.
While all of that was lovely, there was one freedom I still hadn't been granted, and it bubbled under the surface, ever threatening to engulf me entirely. Depression-- Major Depressive Disorder. The beast that it is.
I was officially diagnosed when I was eighteen, after aforementioned traumatic events made life so unbearable I was on an edge ready to jump. Literally. But this wasn't simply the beginning of a depressive episode, it was an extreme of something I'd dealt with since the earliest I can remember.

As a kid, depression isn't something you realize. To a kid, depression is just a big word you hope you never get on a spelling test. When I was little I had no idea what it was, it was just that, a confusing thing I couldn't name or explain. People often thought I was pouting as a kid--and admittedly I did my fair share of that too--but many times I was actually feeling something overwhelming that didn't make sense and I was hiding to try to deal with it, and wasn't comfortable sharing.  I remember in Elementary School, waking up sometimes completely and inexplicably unmotivated. I didn't want to go to school, but I didn't want to stay home either, I didn't want to do anything at all, and I had no idea why. I was a very needy child. I demanded a lot of affection and required a lot of attention.
As I got older, as it does in many people, it got worse, and I got worse at handling myself.

After the diagnosis, I returned to therapy, but it was different. And I approached it differently. Honestly, I lied a lot. The therapist was always so eager for my improvement and so enthusiastic about anything that they considered a step in the right direction that I just started telling them what they wanted to hear. I preferred the undeserved affirmations to actually having to deal with any of my problems. Obviously, this was not an effective pursuit. I got tired of the guilt and disappointment, so I quit again and didn't return until my primary physician required I see the resident psychiatrist or he would insist on hospitalization in fear of my safety.

I didn't stay with that one long either, but he did say something that stayed with me, and all that semi-tangential stuff before this was the lead up to it.
 In an early session, I expressed that I felt worthless and, specifically, lost. And it was at that point that he explained something to me. He told me, "There is a difference between being lost and being confused. And Abbey, you're not lost. "

I have had a hard time agreeing with that, but I think he was onto something I'm still figuring out.
I have what some have called a savior complex. I collect people, I try to keep everyone. I have never been able to accept that anyone else is a lost cause. But now I'm having to accept the fact that generalizing it so means I have to let that apply to me too.
So here's what I want it to mean.
You're not a lost cause, and neither am I. We might not believe it yet, but let's try. Together.

(Afternote: my experience with medication was completely individual situation, and by no means applies to everyone as many people find medicating highly successful.)

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