“The doctor’s fucking sucks. I mean obviously they don’t actually suck because they save lives I get it but like – I want out of here. And he’s late.”
– angsty phone notes written in the toilets of my local GP
I mean I’m sure most people don’t love the doctors, but this particular office – with it’s outdated magazines and snotty children – reminds me of one of the hardest days of my life. Lemme take you back.
For weeks on end in 2012 I couldn’t sleep. I would doze off for an hour or two before being abruptly awoken by a racing heartbeat and intense stress. I was in Year 12 at the time and was putting a shit tonne of pressure on myself to get good grades. I would Google all of my physical symptoms and fret over WebMD’s heart attack diagnosis.
I went to the doctor’s three times. The first doctor I saw told me it was asthma related. Okay – buy a fancy new puffer aaannddd… it still happens.
I go back. It’s still asthma apparently. Does the new puffer work? Nope.
The third time, laughably, a doctor says: “You have quite a large tongue, it could have something to do with that.” Ahh of course! My freak-show of a tongue! Thanks doc.
So I continue to ride the wave. I’m getting ridiculously tired, I’m constantly a bitch, and I legitimately fear getting into bed. I rearrange my entire bedroom at 3am hoping I could change up the feng shui and rest easy. No luck.
A year passes and I head to Melbourne for a week. I’m crashing in a house with seven or eight other girls and it’s cool – we go out to dinner and have drinks. I get into my makeshift bed, and the feeling returns. This time, it’s crippling. I feel my hands begin to tense up, my vision is fuzzy, I 100% think I’m fucking dying. I give it an hour, and then another, and one more. It hits 4am and I am done. I shake my friend sleeping next to me and very sternly say: “Call an ambulance.”
The house is dead silent – everyone is asleep. Two paramedics burst through the door and begin searching for the girl ‘having respiratory issues.’ They give me a once over, and I’m waiting – I’m waiting for them to hand me the bad news. But instead of “You’re dying,” it’s just kinda like “Yo, chill, you’re having an anxiety attack.”
There’s a pack of my mates waiting by the door, and I can’t help but feel like the biggest moron on the planet. I called an ambulance… because I’m anxious? What am I even anxious about?
So after getting home I head back to the doctor’s, the same one I sat in today. I told the Doc everything, and he returned the real diagnosis.
“You have anxiety disorder.”
“We will have to draw up some form of mental health plan for you.”
The room went quiet. He has one of those really loud clocks; I sat and counted each tick before I mustered a sentence.
“But I’m not mental.”
The doctor leant over and gave me one of those slightly condescending, slightly heartwarming touches on the shoulder and reassured me that no, I’m not mental, and that there’s a way to cope with all this.
What even is mental, though? Maybe I was mental. And maybe I still am. I mean there I was today sitting in that office, apparently ‘coping’ with my issues – but still feeling like the smell of disinfectant could trigger an attack.
So why did I decide to write this all down today? Well, much to my surprise it’s two years on. Two years since I was told I was mentally ill.
It’s taken me a long ass time to be ok with this. To be ok with carrying around little pills in my backpack and having to pass up activities because I have diagnosed anxiety disorder. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I guess I have a lifetime to go.
Today’s trip to the doctor’s was far less sinister than those of the past (I have a UTI, thanks for asking!) and as much as I hate the doctor’s, and I hate that they have on file that I’m mentally ill and have a massive tongue – things have gotten better.
I was a skeptic. I didn’t want medication – and although they tried me on it, when I said ‘Nah’ they said ‘Okay.’ I’ve learnt ways to try and deal with this anxiety. And hey, sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes, no matter how many long walks in nature I take, how much I write down, how many of my favourite songs I listen to, I’m going to spiral into an irrational train of thought. But it’s okay. And sometimes it won’t be okay – but I guess that’s okay too.
Two years on. The doctor still sucks, but I’m getting better.
Words by Tahlia Svingos