I Was Scared to See a Psychiatrist

08/16/2017 10:57 am ET

When I was 18 years old I’d just gotten through a depressive episode. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. From the time I was 15 to the age of 18 I vacillated between depression and anxiety. I was mostly stuck in a panic loop and this is not a fun kind of loop. It was the 90’s and mental health issues were swept under the rug. You didn’t talk about anxiety, let along panic attacks. I was weird anyway, and having anxiety made me feel even more like a freak. So I didn’t talk to anyone about my anxiety with the exception of my mom and my best friend, who also had panic attacks.

Back to being 18 and drained. I was tired of trying to manage how unruly my brain was. I’d been in therapy since I was 15, and working hard to gain coping techniques for anxiety. I was using mindfulness meditation every day, breathing exercises and journaling. Still, it wasn’t enough to manage my anxiety. My mom suggested that I consult with a psychiatrist.

Upon hearing the word “psychiatrist” I was terrified.

All I knew about psychiatrists was what I’d seen in the movies and TV shows. They were old men in lab coats that dispensed colorful pills. Mostly (in my head) they existed in hospitals. I knew this couldn’t be true of all psychiatrists and I was probably operating off of an image circa 1950. At that time I was even afraid to take vitamins, so you can understand how neurotic I was. I wanted to get all my nutrition through food as opposed to any outside supplement, even if it could potentially help me. When I heard “psychiatrist” I was frightened. I believed that I was about to see some dude with a black pen, a tiny notepad and a stern expression whose eyes grew wide when he handed me some pills.

Psychiatrists are not just pill dispensers
Sarah Fader 2017
Psychiatrists are not just pill dispensers

My perception wasn’t reality

When I actually got in to see a psychiatrist, it was a WOMAN! She wasn’t wearing a lab coat but rather a nice dress. This was 19 years about, so I can’t remember what color it was, but I know it was a dress. She was friendly, listened to my concerns and prescribed me an antidepressant that ended up helping me. My fears were assuaged and I realized that what I believed a psychiatrist was was completely inaccurate.

Magical cures to mental illness don’t exist

Realistically, pills were not a magical fix to my depressive episodes and panic attacks, but they did help me to feel some sense of relief while I continued to work on myself in therapy. I was happy to have that due to the exhaustion that I was experiencing. Before seeing a psychiatrist I believed that I had no choice but to combat these demons on my own. After consulting with one, I realized that there were medications that could help me. I now have a more balanced view of medication. I’m not completely convinced that medication is “always” the answer to mental health issues. There are days when I don’t want to take my medicine. I resent it and I’m being real with you about that. But I know that overall it does help me live a more balanced life.

Not all psychiatrists are not creepy old men in lab coats

So here’s the deal: maybe you’re considering seeing a psychiatrist to help you deal with your mental health issues. This professional could be an in person doctor or you could work with an online psychiatrist. Remember that you don‘t have to take medication just because you’re consulting with a psychiatrist. This is an option you have, but ultimately, it’s your decision how to manage your mental health. You’ve got this!

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