When I was 13 years old, I announced to my mother that I was depressed and asked if I could see a therapist. I don’t recall her exact response, but considering that it took another year (plus a bottle of Lortab) before I saw a therapist, I’m pretty sure that her response was along the lines of, “You’re not depressed and you don’t need therapy,” while she wondered to herself where I came up with this stuff.
I don’t share this memory as a critique of my mother or her parenting skills (on the contrary, I believe that my mother is one of the strongest women I know, and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job raising me). Instead, I share it because I was reminded of this incident earlier today.
I had a follow-up appointment with my new psychiatrist today. Two weeks ago she floated the possibility of a Bipolar Type II diagnosis after commenting that my presentation and demeanor completely contradicted the depression from which I claimed to be suffering. She asked me to have a discussion with my mother (who suggested I was bipolar several years ago), and to report back. Easy enough homework assignment. And since I’ve always been a bit of an overachiever (as long as it didn’t involve too much effort on my part), I also reached out to a couple of friends.
And that’s where the story got messy. Everyone I spoke to could recall the tears and the outbursts over the years. But no one could recall anything within the last 3 years or so. Most of my friends told me I had to be wrong when I said I’d been feeling depressed for more than six months. They said they couldn’t tell, that they never would have guessed. And I had to admit that I couldn’t blame them. After all, I can barely remember the last time I really let loose and cried. Maybe a couple of tears here and there, but I don’t remember the last time I really cried more than that, aside from my grandmother’s funeral. And even then, I was unable to cry as much as I wanted to. I remember telling myself and others that I must still be in denial and after it was all over it would hit me and I would finally break down. It’s been over 13 months now, and I never had that breakdown.
And this is what made me think of my 13 year old self. Back then I had mood swings; I was called “overly sensitive.” I suspect that these qualities hid a lot of what was going on beneath the surface. Today I once again find myself with a lot of churned up emotions hiding beneath the surface. As a child my feelings were curtained behind a melodrama of sorts. Now the curtain is more of a mask, and at times even I become blind to what lies underneath.