Hi again. I am still here. I’ve opened WordPress a few times since my last post with ideas of what to write. I decided against it. I remember some of my old, old posts from when I first started WordPress and it’s embarrassing how hard I tried, through my depression and anxiety, to be positive. I think I was still partially stuck in indecision over how to feel better about my mental health but also how to reach those resources I was desperately needed. I couldn’t see myself visiting my general practitioner and telling the person everything I was dealing with mentally. So going back to school has been the lifeline to those resources that I didn’t know how to reach before. Personal counseling (one-on-one), group therapy (which I went to for the first time this past Monday), the health clinic, and the student disabilities office.
This Wednesday, I sat down with a psychiatric nurse at the health clinic at my school and she did a preliminary interview with me about my mental health history. This lasted for an hour. We did not get through everything in one sitting, of course. This was my first experience with receiving an actual psychiatric diagnosis for anything. Based on what we spoke about, she gave me the early diagnosis of panic disorder without agoraphobia. I was surprised, mostly because I’ve always just thought I had social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, but that was from me growing up in the computer age of googling my symptoms and self-diagnosing that way. It’s possible she could still give me these diagnoses, as this instance was only our first meeting. She will continue interviewing me at our next meeting (which is in two weeks) so the diagnosis I have now may be subject to change based on what she knows about me.
But since I’ve had time to think about it, panic disorder does make sense for me. I literally have anxiety about almost everything. We spoke at length about my panic attacks and what they feel like when I am having one. She really knew her stuff. I never felt as understood as I did when she put her own face in a neutral expression and said it is possible for someone to have a panic attack and for their facial expression to be like that so it’s not visibly apparent to other people that the person is suffering. That is basically how I am every time I have a panic attack.
Another early suggestion the nurse gave, based on everything I shared with her, is that I could try Zoloft. She advised the sooner the better since it takes roughly two weeks to start working, but that also it could not work for me if the medication simply has no effect on me chemically. I didn’t feel ready to say yes right then and there. My plan is to think on it for the next two weeks and let her know by our next meeting. I am invested in believing medication will have a positive effect on my mental health, but I am also worried about the technicalities of it. I have an aversion to swallowing pills and the times I’ve attempted to down a pill like an aspirin or even practice with a Tic-tac doesn’t work for me. My throat just automatically closes, as if rejecting the solid object as a foreign invader that doesn’t belong there. I don’t know if there is an alternative, such as a dissolving pill or something in liquid form. These are all good questions I should ask the nurse next time.
The process for student accommodations continues. Since my last blog entry where I was freaking the h*ll out about oral presentations, I managed to email my professor to briefly explain my anxiety might impact my ability to fully participate in class but that I was doing my best, in addition to clarifying to her that I was working on obtaining student accommodations. I was actually so nervous about sending the email I sent it to myself first and proofread it before shooting it to her email address. She replied a day later with words of support. I was relieved but now whenever I am in one of her classes, I get self-conscious knowing she knows. Though, I think I realized she is a bit more perceptive than I gave her credit for. I noticed she has a pattern of cold-calling people during class but she only does it if people have previously shown participation before, like if the student volunteered an answer during class and then she calls on the student again for something else later. The only oddity from this was one day in class when a particularly quiet student (not me) smiled when she asked a question and I guess she took this as a nonverbal cue that he had something to say in response. Personally, I believe he was smiling out of nervousness and she misread him because when he was given the chance to speak, he hesitated and even after a few moments he didn’t say anything.
My counselor at the personal counseling office was supposed to get her supervisor to sign off on written documentation that was to be provided to the disabilities office, in order for me to get student accommodations for my classes. It’s been stalled because the supervisor hasn’t done the writing up part yet, so in turn, the counselor I see at the disabilities office can’t provide me with the accommodations. I followed up with both offices this week, and the plan is to contact the personal counseling office again by Tuesday to ask if they faxed the documentation over to the other office yet.
Instinctively, I do want to cringe at the word “disability”. I feel unworthy of the label because my issues affect me mentally and by the standards of mainstream society, physically I look like there’s nothing wrong with me. But it’s also a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. If I had a disability that took a more physical form where it is more noticeable, I think I would have a hard time not thinking that when people look at me, all they see is my disability instead of me as an actual person. It’s a pessimistic view no matter where I stand.
Appointments aside, it was a relatively easy week. Sort of. I had a midterm on Saturday. On Monday, I had a guest lecturer in class, went to group therapy, and later in the day, I had another midterm at the school’s computer lab. Tuesday, I took a shot by going to a collaborative club event between the Biology Club and the Sustainability Club. It was an informative lecture on a salt lake called the Dead Sea. A girl ended up sitting in the same row as me and she just started talking to me as soon as she came in. Our conversation was brief enough before my anxiety could set in.
After the lecture, I asked for her name and told her mine. Maybe it’s just me, but it was surprising that she asked if I had Facebook or Instagram. I must be out of shape socially since I am not that used to connecting with people like that so casually right off the bat. I didn’t mind sharing my Facebook, but the Instagram I have now is largely private and I hardly use it to do anything besides follow a few select people so I didn’t feel it was necessary to mention it to her. There was some technical difficulty with sending her a friend request from my Facebook account (the friend request button was missing from her profile) so she just sent herself a message (from me) using my account on Messenger. Later on she messaged me back. We chatted about a few things but the conversation tampered down. I am not sure whether this texting acquaintance will turn into a friendship or if I’ll even see her again in-person at another event somewhere on campus.
Wednesday, I had class again but about an hour before I was set to leave to catch the bus to school, the class was announced to be canceled for the day. I still had to go, though, for my appointment at the health clinic and an additional appointment at the personal counseling office to resolve the thing with the written documentation. My usual class on Thursday was not in session because I had a take-home exam that was posted online for me to finish, so the only reason I was on campus that day was for my appointment at the disabilities office.
I took some time at the library after all this to work on my exam which was 6 short answer questions, with a requirement that the answers had to be 5-8 sentences each. Last time I went to the school library to do homework, it was too noisy with an influx of students entering and leaving the area so this time I decided going to a nearby public library might be better for my concentration. And it was, except I had the rotten luck of having a woman to the computer next to me constantly dry coughing every few minutes and not covering her mouth. As if that wasn’t disgusting enough, a man across from me at the opposite computer was doing the same thing.
Surely you have heard of the coronavirus, yes? I have a healthy amount of paranoia about catching it from someone else, especially since the number of those who have tested positive for the virus in my state has spiked in recent days (today’s unlucky total number is 44…). I definitely exercise more precaution by washing my hands thoroughly in the restroom and sanitizing my hands more frequently after I touch things while I am out in public. But the virus is starting to make me think it’s not safe to travel anywhere, even domestically. I had plans of joining some members of my school’s Geology Club for a spring break outing in New Mexico. I paid an early deposit to secure one of the 10 available spots, but I don’t know if I can comfortably say that I will go. There is still time to cancel. I even told the club president I was not 100% on board and she requested I inform her of my final decision by Monday. New Mexico has no known cases of the coronavirus (yet?), however, I am afraid of being in the airport and on the flight to and from New Mexico knowing I will come in close contact with people from all over. The club also has a day trip planned in the spring to go to upstate New York, which I think is just as scary being in the general area near to Westchester Country where the community spread of the virus happened.
If the pandemic wasn’t a concern, I would be all for the spring break trip. Originally I wanted to go on this trip to have the experience of traveling with my peers and seeing cool stuff in another state; something I’ve never really done before. Mandatory field trips, in my past schooling experiences, were so awful for me. This trip, on the other hand, is totally voluntary. My gut instinct keeps telling me the timing just isn’t right for the circumstances; meaning I am choosing the wrong time to be adventurous. I will be disappointed to let this opportunity slip away from me if I forfeit my spot, but I also want to be safe.