I went to a psychiatrist on Monday for the first time in my life. It wasn’t a pleasant experience by any means, but I think I had a little bit of a breakthrough.
Some background: I’m a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I did one tour in Iraq during 2003-2004. I was a fueler for a heavy equipment unit (that operated things like dozers, scrapers, road graders, etc), so basically I drove around a gigantic fuel truck (aka the “Bomb on Wheels”) for the year that I was over there. I was fortunate and didn’t actually have to kill anyone while I was over there, but I had a couple of near-death experiences. It was a stressful time in my life, to say the least.
After I got home, I had a hard time adjusting, and finally, after a few years of crying every day for no reason, gaining a huge amount of weight, not being motivated to go to class (or to do anything other than pretty much sit in front of the tv), being antisocial, sleeping large chunks of the day away, etc, etc, my mom convinced me to go see a counselor. The counselor referred me to a nurse practitioner who said I had post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.
So they drugged me up. And it made things a little better. For a while.
Then the medicine I was on stopped working. And I spiraled back to the deep, dark hole I was trying to escape from. I tried a different place. I saw a psychologist. All she did was talk about herself. Stopped going there almost immediately. So then I tried the VA. I’m not going to get into this except to state that it was an unpleasant experience, and was NOT helpful.
Fast forward to April of 2010. I was just kind of “existing.” I was KIND of managing life…but not really. And I definitely wasn’t LIVING life. So I went in to a plain old family practice physician’s assistant and told her that I wanted to get this fixed. I told her that if we could find a medication to take away the nightmares, the depression, I would be willing to be on that for the rest of my life if need be…but I couldn’t go on living my life the way it was—in the deep, dark hole.
That physician’s assistant was awesome. She recommended a medication called effexor that has really turned my life around. Before, I had been functioning at about 10%. Maybe. Today, a year later, I’d say I’m probably functioning at about 70%. This is awesome, but for me, it’s not good enough. I want to be functioning at 100%.
So I went in to see a psychiatrist on Monday. I started a job and moved to a different city this past year, so that physician’s assistant isn’t available anymore to manage my effexor. The doc I saw for my annual physical didn’t feel comfortable managing effexor because she wasn’t very familiar with it (and it’s an antidepressant that’s actually addicting…so managing it well is important…), so she recommended I get established with a psychiatrist.
I was pretty nervous about going, to be honest. I actually procrastinated several months before making the appointment. What can I say? It’s not always really fun sharing some extremely personal details of your life with a stranger. But I’m to the point where I want to be ME again, and I’m willing to go through a little bit of pain to make that happen if need be.
I ended up being super impressed with the psychiatrist. She explained to me that there are three different categories of antidepressants. Each of those categories of antidepressant treats a different part of the brain. She said that people who suffer from depression frequently need more than one medication, (from the different categories) to bring them up to 100%. The effexor that has been helping me falls into one of those categories. But since I’m still not totally up to snuff, she said she thought I would benefit from trying one in another category in addition to continuing with my effexor. I’m game for that.
We talked a lot about my weight issues as well in this session. The new antidepressant the shrink prescribed for me is supposed to help reduce appetite. She said that a lot of my weight issues are a result of the depression, and if we can get that depression to go in to remission, those issues should disappear. But we also talked about how I’ve had certain eating issues since childhood. Those aren’t likely to resolve themselves with medication. I’m going to have to do therapy to get rid of those. So I’ve agreed to be referred to therapy.
What kind of therapy? I don’t know yet. The psychiatrist was going to find out what’s available in my neck of the woods, and someone will be contacting me. More than likely, though, it will be some sort of addictions therapy, because I think I have an addictive personality--I have never had a “normal” relationship with food, and I could probably benefit a lot from that type of therapy. (I used to drink a lot...but that's a story for another day...)
I need to learn how to eat to live, not live to eat. It's going to be an uphill battle I think. Part of the big struggle here is that a person HAS to eat. I obviously just can't quit food cold turkey. So I have to develop some sort of game plan about how to change how I view food.
It's a little scary. I only really know of "one" way to eat. The comfort foods. The crap. The thought of having vegetables be the main course for a meal just seems...wrong. And uncomfortable. It goes against everything I "know."
Clearly the first step is reprogramming my brain. So bring on the shrink!