the bumpy path to better: part 2

I’m dressed in one of my power outfits.  It’s not a suit.  It’s just a nice shirt and nice pants that fall pleasantly on my body.  My shirt is a slightly lighter version of lavender.  The second to the top button is high, so as to not expose too much of a tee shirt below, but not so high that I feel restricted around the neck.  I’m wearing the charcoal grey pants that I recently bought to fit my trimmer waistline.

This is one of the simple but snazzy outfits I wear when I want to feel good, when I want to look good, when I want to convey confidence and strength.

But I do not feel confident or strong or in anyway nice today.

I am drained.  I am angry.  And I just want to get out of this outfit, curl up in bed, and sleep.

Today is a necessary pain.  I had my first talk-therapy visit in years.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for years … I hate it and love it in equal parts.  But it hurts.

Even when I was kept mentally healthy with my old meds, I waited with some anticipation for the day when I would return to a talk-therapy visit to learn what new has been found out about the brain and the body in the depressed and anxious state.  Obviously, progress has been made.  And not having a talk-therapy visit had kept me from learning too much about recent advances and how they might help me in my specific situation, body, and brain.

This is also the way I felt about my recent struggle to find a new and better medication.  While my old meds were working — which was great — I still wondered, what progress has been made.  Are there more drugs that don’t mess with your metabolism?  Are there more drugs that don’t carry the oh-so-annoying side effects that become part of the life of someone managing their Depression and Anxiety well for several years?

“Well, lucky you, Michael Dahl!  Your old therapist retired.  Your old meds stopped working.  You fell into deep Depression and panic attack-level Anxiety.  So you needed to find a new doctor and a new talk therapist.  Today, you got your wish.  You got to retell your past:  your genetic baggage as well as the physical, cultural, and social environments that played a part in making you you.”

Complicated:   you.  Sometimes powerful:  you.  Sometimes stuck in a black hole:  you.  Sometimes a tightly wound up ball of nerves:  you.  Sometimes fun to be around:  you.


“Climb out of your beat up ego, Michael!  You get to hear and read about the advances in what we now know about the brain and the body.  The brain and the body as it developed into an anxious and depressed being years ago.  The brain and the body of the adult who can better understand why you must sometimes experience hell.”

Lucky me!

Today’s talk therapy visit was more of an introduction.  No big breakthroughs were going to happen.

I was just going to tell my story.  I talked about how I am a pretty self-aware guy.  I noted that I am very confident in the things I believe in.  I shared that I am pretty knowledgeable about that fact that my genetic history, series of knocks to the noggin, troubled childhood, and several tween and teen years living in poverty have made me a very good candidate to carry the chronically depressed and anxious label.

I also learned that my hoped for new talk therapist seemed like a good match for me and my needs.

We had time for her to teach me one brain trick I’d never heard of to deal with the immediate onset of a panic attack.  I’m certainly okay if I never have to use it, but I know I will have to use it.  Likely sometime soon.

And then she shared what I’ve been waiting for for all these years.  Have there been advances?  Do we know more about the brain, the body, and the development of Anxiety and Depression?

“Why yes, Michael.  We do know a lot more.”

Without getting into details — I know that must be a strange thing for someone to read as they are watching transparent-Michael pour his heart out — we know that the toxic stress of difficult childhood mixed with bad genetics doesn’t just impact the brain.  It wreaks havoc on the body.  Sometimes the high stress levels force children dealing with “adult level problems” (whatever that means) to breathe differently than the lungs of a much-calmer young body.  Sometimes this happens.  Sometimes that happens.  Oh, there’s so much garbage we’ve learned.

Yay!  I now know how much life can suck even more than I thought it could before.

Now, mind you.  I’m happy I know this.  And I know, some of the science and neurology and biology described to me I can’t say — yep, that’s me.  But I can say, “hmmm, that sounds familiar.”

And if it is me, it helps me understand that part of what I’ve always thought of as normal is really anything but.  There’s a new level of burden.  But it’s also a type of burden I can now try to deal with, or work through, or erase.  And I guess that’s good.

But, as happened that last time I left that same office a couple weeks ago— coming out of a visit with the doctor who prescribed me my new meds — I called my wife and just started to cry.

“The old Michael is a new Michael,” I thought.  “And I need to figure out who he is.”  Because “better” is in my future.  But it’s a bumpy road ahead to get there.