Twenty minutes. That’s how long I spent with my psychologist this morning. My first appointment with her, I guess you could say it was a ‘get to know you’ session. In twenty minutes…
I covered the bare bones of the major events in my life as a child, but by no means all of the events that have shaped me. We also never touched on the actual problems I have, the symptoms that affect my daily life.
She asked if I had brothers and sisters. I had to explain the concept of step/half-sisters, and from her reaction it seems that any sibling who is not related through my mother is irrelevant anyway.
The absolute highlight of our short chat though, was the well thought out and insightful question, “why are you depressed?”
“Why are you depressed?”
From the average person, that is, to an extent, an understandable question. Most people think that, if you are depressed, something has happened to make you depressed. For many, depression is a synonym for sad or upset. But she is not an average person, she is a mental health professional.
Depression is an illness. While a depressive episode absolutely can be triggered by an outside event, that is not always the case. For me personally, I have been through periods of high stress and upset that have not caused a depressive episode, and equally I have found myself in the depths of my depression despite a period of self-care, self-love and great happiness.
Let me say it again: Depression is an illness.
So how did I respond to her question? Which, by the way, she asked twice, at different points during the session. I shrugged.
Maybe the fact that the serotonin theory of depression is being questioned put me off answering her question with, “because my serotonin levels are f*cked!” Maybe knowing it would be hard to express my true feelings and opinions in my broken French put me off. Or maybe, and more likely, I’m just tired.
Every day I come face to face with the ignorance and stigma around mental illness. Every. Day. Be that from well meaning friends who want to help because they want me to feel better, or from ignorant idiots who believe that mental illness isn’t real and I should just pull my socks up and stop wallowing and making excuses. So when I see and hear that same ignorance in someone who has trained for three, four, or even five years in the field, it is just easier to give up.
I have a second appointment. She asked if I wanted one, despite not explaining how she works, or what she can offer, or how, or even if, she feels she can help me. I said yes, because I’m desperate, and I have no idea what other options are left.