I’ve never been depressed, not officially.
Maybe not at all except the once, at age 15; might have been depression
what my mother called “adolescence” and “defiance”—
there was an eating disorder back then too,
an anorexia nervosa, that got missed; named instead “late blooming”
(which won my skinny bones a lead in the spring musical
whatever one called it, so clearly nobody minded, not even me).
But I wasn’t depressed anytime/everytime the diagnosis got counted.
Among the moods I have [not] had:
generalized anxiety disorder
anxiety-Not Otherwise Specified
It wasn’t depression when I filled out forms for the therapist
who said, “I think you’ve undergone a major depression”—
and although I told him “no,
I don’t think that’s it,” major depressive episode
was what got sent to the insurance.
When the shrink that therapist recommends, asked that I guess
his diagnosis for my head, and I told him “one week ago
dude-down-the-hall called it major depression” —the new doc beamed
in diagnostic triumph, laughed “guess again!” before giving in
and telling me borderline personality disorder,
which wasn’t it either.
I almost prefer therapists who never tell you
what they’ve put in your file—though you then must battle against
the unknown definitions in their minds
as well as the unknown crazies in your own.
It grows tedious after a time:
navigating what specimen of disorder a professional classifies you as
when he squints at you under his microscope.
My least favorite was the shrink who, after I sat in his office and told him
I was afraid the switch in my head was about to turn off,
lectured me on what a poor choice of metaphor a lightswitch was.
Because “depression is so much more complicated” and “psychiatry
is so much more skilled” and “this is not wax on/wax off for brain chemistry”
and among all the things he said, none of them was
“can you tell me more about that?”
Which I wish he’d asked, because I might have told him how one episode
STARTED between the 16th and 18th of August
ENDED Monday, October 1st, around 7pm
which really doesn’t sound to me like how I’ve heard depressions described.
Maybe if he’d asked and I’d answered, we both would have understood:
if a lightswitch is the wrong metaphor for depression,
then depression is the wrong metaphor for a lightswitch
(and I’ve never been one for using metaphors carelessly).
Last summer a therapist passed me a recommendation—not a diagnosis
intentionally, just a “this term sounds like what you’re describing
and I know you like reading this stuff” kind of thing—but
under that psychiatric label, behind that peer-reviewed language
I found—wholly unexpected—people who
feel different in exactly the ways I feel different
which is not, I realize, a proper diagnosis. It’s not even clear
if the nosology is dissociative or anxiety-based
when I describe it like that—
(and I would offer to tell you the name except
that’s a bit like handing someone a dictionary when what they asked for
was a guide book and when what they really need
is a guided tour.)
“No treatment known to be effective”
“Most severe cases have onset by age 16”
freaked me out at first (especially as I recognized my own age-14 self)
until I realized
“Criteria C: Experiences clinically significant distress”
no longer applies if I choose to refuse it.
And why not refuse distress
risen from decades of shouting into headwinds, wondering if my voice
carries only stillborn sound? What other choice—
with no known treatment
and no other known ways-of-being?
What you call a diagnosis, I will call a dialect of self
and I will translate your inflections into my own tongue and reply
with enunciation common and precise
enough for anyone to follow
even headshrink docs,
who tend to be hard of hearing, and slower than your average joe.
“Diagnosis” is part of an ongoing memory project.
Additional installments can be found here.
Image credit: Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons