Allow me to explain why I am opening this up to scrutinizing netizens, potential employers, and academic professors (although the likelihood of the latter two randomly stumbling upon a blog like mine is 1 out of 50000). I am not doing this for attention, as I worry people might assume. As a student in clinical psychology, nurse, research assistant for a study on mental health, and basically a concerned human being, I believe it is my duty to raise awareness on mental health issues and to reduce the stigma that comes with it, especially for something as common as mood disorders. I hope that, by sharing my experiences, people will understand that mental illness can happen to anyone, and it does not always automatically equate ‘psychotic’/out of touch with reality.
One of the many things that keep me up at night is worrying about whether I will be an effective clinical psychologist, given my condition.
I have a mood disorder and some form of anxiety disorder, generalized, I think. I was diagnosed in 2011, after seeking help when I realized I was so close to believing what my inner demons were making me feel.
I am considerably in a more consistently better mood now, thanks to a combination of medication, therapy, and a support system, although I still have bad days. Keeping to myself most of the time does not help, either, but during these bad days, I find it really hard to go out of bed and face people, especially crowds, because I feel suffocated and bare, like I am being laid out like a choice cut of beef shank in a butcher shop for discerning, loyal customers.
Because of this overwhelming difficulty trying to interact with human beings, I sometimes wonder whether I can interact with my potential patients suffering from the exact same disorder, whether I can help a depressed person when I cannot even help myself, not really. What comes after this are discouraging automatic thoughts like, “Face it, you should stop while you still can. You are just too psychologically unstable to help the unstable. It’s like the blind leading the blind!”, and “What makes you think you can be the authority for mental health when you have gone through it?”
I am fortunate that my line of work gives me opportunities to expand my knowledge regarding therapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Combined with the principles of CBT, depression forums and websites, and my fondness for constructive arguments, I formulated a series of rebuttals for these intrusive automatic thoughts.
Basically, whenever I start doubting myself and my capabilities, I get my strength from my knowledge. I read that it can actually be helpful if a therapist has suffered from a depressive episode. Similar to the principle of former alcoholics facilitating an Alcoholics Anonymous charter, as a patient myself, I can easily step into my patient’s shoes and get the picture of what he/she is feeling/not feeling, because I have been there, and when I say I understand how you feel, I am not only spouting out recommended phrases for therapeutic communication, I really do understand how you feel.
My automatic thoughts are telling me I sound conceited for thinking that I can be good at this. Go figure. I automatically shoot back with the only retort I can think of during this time, “Fuck off”. It’s weird arguing with myself, but basically, that is what I usually experience in a depressive episode. A battle with myself. A battle I hope to someday overcome and not become the casualty. I don’t know if it’s the interplay of neurochemicals, satiation, and the positive encouragement by people over psych forums over mentally ill psychologists, but I think I just might. 🙂