It has now been almost 2 complete years since my first visit to my first psychiatrist. A lot has changed in this time, I have seen a downward trend and reached the nadir and then from there on, I have risen again. This reminds me how it all started, the journey of these last two years. I had been willing to visit a psychiatrist ever since I realized I was feeling depressed. I had never been to one before but I knew that it was a step that had to be taken in order to recover. I went into the room unaware of what I was expecting. I had been told all the clichéd platitudes by people around me that everything will be fine, be positive etc. but I always wondered whether a psychiatrist would have something special to say in order to help me. I mean what is so special about a psychiatrist or psychologist that makes them different from other people. Do they use special words, sentences or spells to help people? I was a bit fascinated by this but I also knew that I needed help and I had to do something.
Before I go in details I wish to point out that I don’t want to disrespect or criticize anyone in this article. I was at a point where I was not really willing to be helped and in that frame of mind, nothing anyone said could have helped me. The doctor I talk about surely tried his best but it was something he couldn’t have done anything about. I respect him as much as I respect anyone and hold no grudges against him. It was a small room with the clichéd psychiatrist couch tucked away in a corner. It was lightly lit; not as bright as I had thought it would be. The doctor was well known in my city and had a good and respected name. We sat down and my mother explained to him what was happening with me. I wasn’t really focusing on the conversation; my mind was thinking about something else, something dark and terrible but one that I couldn’t get my mind off of. I could hardly feel anything, I felt like a rock sitting there. My mom left us alone after a while and he started talking. I was expecting something different. I expected some magic words or spells or something that I had never heard before in order to help me, but those were all fantasies of my own creation. He talked about his personal life, his past, how he had to struggle himself to be a psychiatrist. The stigma attached to mental health was much greater about 2 decades ago than it is now and it must have been a great challenge for him to overcome all of that. He talked away; unfortunately, he might as well have been talking to a wall. I didn’t feel anything; I just sat there like a dummy. If I wasn’t in as bad a condition as I was in, I would have felt sympathetic with him and wanted to share my own problems but none of that happened. I just sat in anticipation of some miracle. I thought it would be like *bam* I gave you therapy and it is all going to be fine now. The sort of things we expect from pills for physical illnesses. It took me a very, very long time to understand that this was not how it was going to happen. He talked and talked, I pretended to listen on. Nothing really happened. When it ended, he prescribed a few sleeping pills and asked to meet me again next week. It was my first experience with a sedative pill and I thought this was some sort of certificate that I was indeed going crazy.
I went there again and it became more mechanical than therapeutic. Slowly I started visiting more psychiatrists. The list prescriptions kept getting longer and every time I looked at a new prescription, I just became more convinced that there was no chance of me getting any better and nothing I could do would help me. I felt hopeless and alone. It was a really bad time, I have gone into the details before but writing about it again and again would make me feel worse in the present as well. Let us just say it was a really bad time for me, a time where I was battling my own mind and trying to get it under my control. Here are all the various prescriptions I got; it includes one psycho-somatic assessment as well. I was on all varieties of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. The anti-psychotics in particular made me feel like a crazy man, one who had no chance of getting better. Electro-convulsive therapy was something that was supposed to be one-stop way of fixing things, but that didn’t really work either.
Seeing all of these again makes me realize that the thing about mental illness is it doesn’t behave like a physical illness, nor is it treated like one. I cannot get better until I make a conscious effort myself to get better. It is hard, it is always going to be hard, but it is, most of the times, worth it. A dialogue from a movie I watched comes to mind,
“Don’t rest waiting for god to do something, who knows, he may be waiting for you.”
Of course, I wasn’t waiting for a god to do something, but I was waiting for something external to help me whereas the only person who could have helped me in those times was me.