Last week I got a Primary Care Provider. As a nurse, I know the importance of having a PCP. Also as a nurse, I’ve had the tendency of ignoring symptoms and my yearly care because I just ask my friends who work in healthcare for advice. However, I’ve been recently dealing with some symptoms that I couldn’t just ignore or explain away so I bit the bullet and found a new provider. While at my appointment, I had a very in depth discussion with the Nurse Practitioner (a rare and yet invaluable experience). She spent a lot of time going through my previous history and talking me. The results of that conversation are still on my mind.
We first started out talking about our mutual nursing backgrounds and my career goals (I told her I was considering NP schools and we talked about that for a while). Slowly the topic turned slightly feminist (we discussed my birth control and then started talking about women’s issues in general) but then we got back to my more serious history. At this point in the conversation, she looked at me and said something along the lines of “I see you have a history of Depression. It’s listed in here as Major Depressive Disorder. That can’t possibly be true.” I told her that yes, while in college I suffered a Major Depressive episode. She then pressed again and said something along the lines of “yes, but MDD is much more severe than depression.” I couldn’t help but smile. Yes, I had suffered from Major Depressive Disorder and chronic dysthymia (a chronic, low mood disorder). She just stared at me for a moment. “Are you on meds?”
I have never been on medication for my illness (although I fully support the use of antidepressants when appropriate). In fact, I actually tried to get on medication at one point but went to a provider who couldn’t prescribe them and just ended up working with her. I spent about 2 years in and out of various psychiatrists offices with the end result being a Nurse Practitioner who was shocked that had ever been a part of my history.
As I went to bed last night, I was thinking about this conversation with my new NP (who finished our visit by telling me how proud of me she was for overcoming a terrible disease) and I realized how I never would have believed that this day was even possible. Looking back on how low I had sunk during my college years is shocking. Remembering all of the terrible things that I felt or believed during my childhood is hard. Yes, I still remember the long nights of self-loathing and everything else that was dark about that time. But more importantly, those experiences have made me even stronger. I wish there had been someone to tell me that I didn’t have to live life hating myself or life in general but there wasn’t. Not until I got to my second year of college and made a friend who I trusted enough to open up to about it. And who actually made the idea of going to therapy a positive thing rather than a punishment for my perceived failures.
I still struggle with self-deprecating thoughts sometimes and still email with one of my psychologists every now and then just to keep myself in check but for the most part, I’m healed. I cannot stress enough that I never believed that would happen. It’s strange to me now that I have experiences every now and then that actually stress me out because I’m responding differently to them. It’s hard to explain but I’ve struggled with managing new experiences because my mind has always had a negative reaction to certain things and now it doesn’t. And its stressful to have to learn new emotions in your twenties. I thought I learned all my feelings as a child. But I got help and now I see things in a much more positive light. For a while, I wondered if it was easier, safer even, to keep things the same. But having come out of the other end of therapy, years later I can say it was worth it. Over and over again it was worth it. I’m so thankful I never gave up on fighting for a happy life. Sure, there are always tough times but they get better. I can survive anything.