The moon hangs high above battlefield illuminating the torment below. Troops from one side push into their enemy's line while their reserves flank from behind. With each skirmish, the moon grew dimmer until the last bit of light was over taken by darkness. Roars went up from the conquerors in celebration for another successful campaign.
I open my eyes to a world where five minutes had passed in it. My gaze turns toward the window, yet I do not see the beauty of the landscape beyond it. My mind retreats back in itself while I stand in front of the sliding glass door. I imagine a movie scene where the viewer sees the figure standing on a balcony before turning toward the audience for some kind of epic reveal. Sadly, there is no turn, no reveal, or a Hans Zimmer track lead in for the moment. Instead, there was only me letting my mind retreat back in itself. The place was an all too familiar spot for the past couple years.
Depression comes in many flavors for different people. The image above closely resembles mine. The constant turmoil in my head, a feeling of failure and doom loomed over me. I would arise each day because that is the responsibility of being an adult. I would adorn my mask for either the office, convention, or friends before heading out in the world. Behind the smiles, the jokes/trolls, and the stories, there was anxiety, panic attacks, and fear.
It was always hard to articulate why I felt this way especially with people informing that I should not be depressed or questioning the validity of it. The period it took to find professional help was a long journey with different paths of anxiety and uncertainty. To avoid the tales of personal anguish trying to cure myself, I favor the tale where I got the courage to find someone to help me.
During my trip to PHP[tek] back in May 2014, I went to the Evening Summit which happened to have a topic on mental health. Each speaker took the stage discussing their trials and tribulations with mental illness. As each person spoke about their situation, an easiness washed over me. The internal torment from the past couple years did not seem like a difficult piece to overcome. I listened to every word from the speakers despite the nagging negativity nestled in the back of my brain. When the summit was complete for the night, I went to find a fellow named Davey Shafik from Engine Yard.
Engine Yard heads up Prompt, the group that put on the Mental Health Summit. Prompt opens up the discussion on the topic of mental health by sending speakers to tech conferences and meetups. Davey was the individual who I found to discuss what was talked about during the summit. To sum up our conversation, I was not alone in the world when it came to any of my issues nor was I going to be lost on finding help. At that moment, there was hope I could find peace for the battles in my mind.
After coming home from tek, I performed some quick searches within my insurance provider for a psychiatrist/counselor/psychologist. I sorted through all the names looking for some kind of sign that they would be able to help me on my quest for a cure. Notes were scribbled on paper with numbers to call on Monday morning. I wish the current point of story ended in a fairy tale closing of "I called a doctor and everything was happily ever after..", however, the sad truth is quite different. I never called anyone.
A couple more months went by where I stared at my notes wondering when I would be able to call even one number on the list. The nights of panic attacks and random anxiety was getting old. I felt my mind was going to tear at the seams. I sat down and punched in a search in Google to help me find a therapist. My search led me to Psychology Today's directory of Huntsville counselors. I scrolled through the list and selected Dr. Stacy Ikard at random. My heart thumped loudly in my chest as I typed in my information. The two hundred character limit of the "message" field seemed like writing a novel. I read over my response to the "message" part of the form over and over. As I felt the onset of a panic attack, I clicked the "Send Email" button before walking away from my computer to stare outside.
After a couple days of correspondence, I had an appointment booked at Corner Stone Counseling to see Dr. Ikard. My anxiety was through the roof to say the least about the time leading up to the appointment. The drive over did not help either, but luckily for me, the location was a short drive from my office. I pulled into a parking spot only to sit for a good bit of time debating whether to walk inside or drive back to the office. Knowing that I would regret the latter decision, I stepped out of the car and went inside CCC. The one thing I dreaded was going into a crowded waiting room to finish filling out my paperwork. I did not want to have people look at me even though I knew they were there for their own counseling reasons. I was scared.
The waiting room was empty.
I sighed in relief. After introductions and payment, I began the infamous filling of the paperwork routine. The ten minutes before my scheduled appointment time disappeared before I knew it. Dr. Ikard came out to introduce herself and escorted me back to her office. In my mind, I expected to see a leather chaise chair and a ton of books on the walls. However, I was greeted with a couch and a couple arm chairs. I was invited to tour Dr. Ikard's office before finding a comfortable chair to sit down on for the session. I kicked off my shoes (asked before I did it) and sat down on the couch.
When I look back at that first appointment, I laugh a little to myself. All the anxiety that was building up to it seems like wasted energy. It was a simple e-mail that I do every day when I'm working, yet it felt like the hardest thing in the world. Actually, it was the hardest thing in the world for me. I'm elated to be on a path for recovery, but I know it is one with continual battles to avoid slipping back into a depressive state.
The TL;DR of this whole blog post is simple - The first phone call may be hard, but it will be the greatest defining moment in the battle for your mental health. If you ever find yourself in an unstable state, do not wait to call someone reach out to counselor, a friend, or a random stranger.