In my family, you go to the ‘lady doc’ when you hit eighteen or when you start having sex. Both happened for me at the same time, so I had to make the dreaded appointment. A doctor was going to be poking around my hoo-hah and getting some type of smear. Smear is just the worst of words. Ew. I did not want to be smeared.
This is well before cell phones, so no pleasant distractions in the waiting room besides eavesdropping on others and in the hoo-hah doc, it’s all whispering so you have to hone your ears and sit close to your target. I try to take my mind off the fact that a doctor is going to probe me, but to no avail, and the anxiety hits. Mack truck slamming into your clueless, stationary body making it a shaking, sweaty mess of anxiety.So, within minutes I had to poop. You know what is more fun than having a poop-inducing anxiety attack in a public place that you can not leave? Having a poop-inducing anxiety attack in a public place that you can not leave and doesn’t have a bathroom.
I got to the bathroom and anxiety pours out of me as I remember someone is about to be in that very area, up close. Inspecting it. Post poop! I wanted to die a thousand deaths. I wanted to run out of the bathroom and not stop until I reached my bedroom. I wanted to never be inspected! But, just as the jelly legs subside and I am physically able to move again, the nurse knocks on the door saying ‘we’re ready’. Yeah, y’all are not about to be spread eagle for inspection, of course you’re ready. I was no where near ready, but at that point I knew I never would be and knew I couldn’t stay in their restroom for the rest of my life, as much as I wanted.
Easiest part of the visit…being spread eagle and inspected. My doctor was fast and worked with ease and a sense of wisdom. Almost no discomfort. Hardest part of the visit…my first diagnosis. The first of many, many similar conversations happened while I was being probed. She was making small talk to take my mind off of the probing and of course small talk with me led to an hour of me explaining my thoughts and feelings, openly and honestly. And then, as she was labeling the smear tubes, she tells me, ‘you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and seem to be borderline Agoraphobic.’. I did not know what agoraphobic was, but I knew what phobic meant and that I felt phobic about a lot of things. And, now I learned one more new thing, I learned that being naked and probed and smeared is easy compared to a diagnosis like that.
During the clothed part of the visit, she explained the anxiety disorder and told me that my fear of leaving home, my stomach aches at restaurants with lots of people and my general fear of the public was an actual chemical imbalance in my brain chemistry that would last forever, but could be altered with medication and make me feel more ‘normal’. Well, I thought I was normal. Until that moment, I assumed every human got a stomach ache before school and felt sick or uncomfortable a lot of the time. I had no idea people were walking around not obsessing about where there might be a bathroom, or how many people might end up in the store they’re in, checking for exits and always thinking of a way to excuse themselves quickly and successfully.
In the 21 years since, I have been diagnosed with the following additional mental illnesses: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Severe Depressive Disorder, Acute Anxiety with Panic, Major Depressive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder. But, what I feel like my diagnoses should’ve been was guinea pig. I have been put on and taken off more medications than I can count. Doctors have tried to balance my brain chemicals without ever looking at my actual brain for my entire adult life. Now, I say, diagnose away–I still have to live this life in this brain. Diagnoses change nothing.