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Doctors Thought I Had Depression — Until I Finally Got This Diagnosis

She was young with smiling eyes and a voice that reminded me of a cooing dove. I sat in the client’s chair, she opposite me in her desk chair. After some time (therapists like to let you cry), she asked me to talk about it, if I could.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I said. “That’s what I don’t understand.” I’d passed my dissertation defense. I wasn’t sad about Ray anymore.

She asked what else might be causing me to feel the way I did.

The crying started again. It seemed not to come from myself. Then I seemed not to be myself, watching myself in the chair and Angela across from me. I said I didn’t want to be there anymore.

Angela clarified: “Where? Here? In the office or . . . ?”

I tried to answer but couldn’t. Heaves. Sobs. Ridiculous.

“Have you had these thoughts before?” she asked.

I said I had.

Our session ended. She made me promise to call every day to check in until our next appointment. “I’m responsible for you.”

I went to class. I taught. I ran. I wrote. I walked. I ate. I called and checked in.

At my next appointment, Angela asked how I was doing.

“Worse,” I said.

She stood and in a gentle voice said she’d be right back. “Don’t go anywhere.”

I started to cry again.

Angela returned. “We’re lucky she’s free.”

“Who?”

Angela led me down the hall to the office of the psychiatrist in her practice. The psychiatrist’s office was painted teal. In her 50s, the psychiatrist had long brown hair and wore a suit jacket, a skirt, and heels. She introduced herself though I can’t remember her name.

I sat on the couch. Angela stayed in the room. From the psychiatrist’s mouth came questions I tried to answer. I measured my words, modulating my voice so that the words didn’t sound alarming. It backfired, and I devolved into hysterics more extreme than if I’d let myself cry.

When I calmed down and looked up, she surprised me: “You don’t have ADHD. Or OCD. Or anxiety. Or depression. You’re bipolar.”

The psychiatrist smoothed her slacks and stood. “I think you should see one of my colleagues.” She went to the phone on her desk.

“Who?” I asked, panic in my voice.

The psychiatrist didn’t answer.

I looked at Angela, whose dove eyes had in them only sympathy.

When the psychiatrist hung up, she said, “We can go.”

“Where?” I asked.

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