For the Love of Labels
Receiving a diagnosis, even when it’s not considered a “serious” problem and even when it feels like all the disjointed problems are finally explained is not always a relief. There’s something about a healthcare professional looking you in the eye and saying, “You have [xyz].”
From about age 14 on, I had terrible anxiety and panic. It got to the point where I almost fainted a few times from hyperventilating. So every day in high school, I’d walk through the halls wondering if something was going to set me off, and if it did, would one of the guys in class make fun of me? Would he say, “She’s such a drama queen” or, “Oh, are you going to faint?” and roll his eyes.
It took me about 14 years to accept that I really needed treatment. Even though I had a family history of anxiety and depression, an undergraduate degree in psychology, and a graduate degree in counseling, it still took me that long to even consider getting help. After a week of feeling sick even though I knew nothing was physically wrong with me (I visited the doctor’s office the way the devout visit church) I finally made an appointment to talk about the anxiety. I was tired of worrying about what awful thing was going to happen next or when I was going to have to lie down under my desk and hope none of my co-workers walked by and saw me. (Oh yes, that happened.)
So the day I walked into the doctor’s office, I knew what I had, but even at that, having someone tell me, “You have moderate anxiety and mild depression” made me burst into tears. It’s safe to say that I was especially fragile in that moment, but I also knew I’d crossed a point of no return. I could no longer kid myself into thinking maybe I’d just had too much coffee or that it would pass as soon as things settled down at work, or as soon as my husband got a better job. There was always something else it could be . . . until there wasn’t Continue reading