What If – A Road Not Taken
We all make mistakes. No one is infallible. And that is okay. The important thing is that we learn from what we have done wrong and don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over. If you are a logical and healthy person, that is. And then there is me. I make panicky decisions based on fear all the time. They are not based on logical, or intuition. They are based on the worst possible scenario in my head. So I avoid, I keep silent, I retreat, I soothe. I am constantly making the same mistakes over and over again.
Mistakes are related to decisions. Let’s put the whole discussion of if there is a free will aside, and assume that there is free will (although. I don’t believe there is!). We make small decisions every day, thousands of them. Most of the time we don’t even realize that we made a decision. And then there are those big decisions, the ones that are life altering. We maybe don’t even realize that they could be life altering, that there were actually other options available, that we were at a crossroads.
And we have all been there. Everyone has had those crossroad moments in their lives. What to study in college, which job to take, who to marry, a break up. In those moments we know that we need ro consider the options and make a decision that feels good to us. It doesn’t even have to be logical. The best decisions are actually those that are made in a mindspace called Wisemind. You have the emotional mind, and the reason mind, and where those two overlap, you have the wisdom to make a decision that pleases all your emotional and logical needs.
Well, that is when you know that you are at a crossroads. When you understand that whatever you decide will be life altering. And then there are those decisions that you make, where you are unaware of in the moment, that they can change the path of your life. You make a gut decision about something. And sometimes that turns out great, sometimes it doesn’t. It just “feels” logical in the moment. That is kind of where we all do the hit and miss thing. And that is okay. Our gut isn’t our brain after all.
I have made a few crossroad decisions that were based on that gut feeling, and that turned out great for me. Moving to Sweden back in 2006 was one. Moving to Canada last year was another. Studying the subjects I did at university was one. And then there are those where I feel I fucked up. I regret what I have done and I wish I would have chosen another path. I just wasn’t aware in that moment, that there was one.
Some of those decisions include to not report my abusers or breaking up with my ex-husband the way I did. There were other options, I just didn’t see them at that time. See, that is often the problem with those decisions when we follow our gut. We don’t engage our logical mind enough, we just go with what feels safest, most comfortable or best. Looking back, that is when we can pinpoint what we did wrong in which moment, and which options we didn’t see. And that leaves us with the dreadful: What if …?
What if I had not said anything? What if I had signed up for medical school? What if I had chosen to have a child later in life? Some of those what ifs can turn into wonderful fantasies of lives we could have lived. Especially when there is regret. In the end it is all assumptions though, we can only imagine, not know, how different our lives would have been.
What If I Had Never Trusted Psychiatry?
One of the roads that I chose not to take was to stay away from psychiatry. This might be an odd one for many, but for me, getting in touch with them was a life altering decision. It was not about taking a logical step, or going through the options. It was about my gut feeling. I felt like the medical community could be trusted. Well, it turned out that they couldn’t be trusted at all. But I made the decision to trust them blindly, follow their instructions, swallow their pills, go with the program, and let them put me in hospitals. It is one of those decisions that I still regret and I am often thinking about what if I had chosen a different path, a path where I trusted my own judgment and believed in that it would get better.
I was naive and scared. I had struggled before but this time things were just more intense and a lot of things just happened at the same time: I was stressed out by my studies and an internship, one of my best friends had suddenly died and I had suffered from panic attacks for a while. After having had a discussion with a GP about the stressors in my life and the panic attacks, she suggested I’d get in touch with psychiatry. So I did.
I didn’t read up on things. I didn’t look at options for self-care, for self-help, nope. I went straight to psychiatry. I got assessed and was diagnosed with panic disorder. And I started cognitive behavioural therapy for that. But I overdid it and I burnt myself out more. I wanted it to be fixed, and I believed in the abilities of professionals to help me fix it. But I burnt myself out.
I got suicidal because of the extra stress and all the stuff going on in my life, and was diagnosed with depression. And I was prescribed Prozac, Zopiclone and Oxazepam. Did I read up on the side effects? Or that they can make you addicted? Nah. I swallowed the pills. Only, I got worse and worse. So what did I do? Well, I trusted psychiatry and when they suggested I should go to the hospital, I did. I stayed two weeks at a psych unit, where two more medications were added. Lamictal and Propavan. I didn’t ask what they’d do. I swallowed. I watched people self-harm, try to kill themselves, I heard the screams of those who were forcefully fed, or tied down, or medicated. I watched people return after electroshock treatments, not even remembering their own names.
I said yes to upping my dose of sedatives and antidepressants. I said yes to adding Zoloft. I didn’t read up, I trusted them. I was in and out of hospitals for three years. I tried dozens more medications: Xanax, Diazepam, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Risperdal, Theralen, Effexor, Wellburtin, Atarax, Nitrazepam and more and more and more. I gained 40 kg. I saw bodies of those who had just died from suicide. I got traumatized by the things I saw at psych units. I got sexually assaulted while being tied down for “my own safety”. I got injected with Haldol against my will. I got sectioned and was at the hospital against my will. For weeks.
I had the worst side effects, some of them permanent. I have brain damage because of antipsychotic medication, spasms in my legs and arms. I had so many side effects that lots of medications got redlisted in my file, saying I should never take them again.
The professionals I met were terrible, some tolerable at best. I got called names, was called an addict, was told that they didn’t like me or that I didn’t have a personality. I had two therapists tell me that that they can’t support me anymore because they got too emotionally attached to me. I tried CBT, DBT, pychonalytical therapy. I was diagnosed with panic disorder, major depressive disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder type 1 and 2, social anxiety, health anxiety, affect phobia, avoidant personality disorder, PTSD, bullimia, C-PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Naturally, all of this fucked me up more than I was before I got in touch with psychiatry. I am yet again in a place where I am tapering down a medication and I am going through terrible withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are no child’s play. I have four diagnosis that have stuck with me for a while now and that seem legit (Bipolar Disorder type 2, Dissociative Identity Disorder, C-PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder). I have permanent damage from some of the medications, I have no trust in psychology and psychiatry anymore, and I have trauma from the treatments and the hospital stays I had to endure. I am currently not in touch with psychiatry, I am not on medication and I am not sure if I ever want to go down that road again. And I am sad and angry. So sad and angry.
Because: What if? What if I had actually not turned to psychiatry? What if I had actually used my brain and researched? What if I had asked questions, refused medications and took care of myself instead? My road not traveled is the one where I am in control of my healing. Where there is no new power imbalance in my life. Where psych medications didn’t ruin my body and mind more. Where new traumatic experiences didn’t happen.
I imagine it being a healthier path. One where I am confident to take care of myself. One where my body is still healthy, and my mind clearer. One where I have no self-harm scars. One where I am in control of myself. One where I still believe in things to be okay. I know that I am mentally ill and that my body would have still been broken. But not as severely as things are now. I might have gotten my PHD in literary studies. I might have been educated on how to help myself instead of trusting so called professionals who have no clue.
But it doesn’t matter what could have been. I probably would have missed out on a lot of the things that were good in the last 9 years too. I am where I am because of the decisions I made. Whatever could have been is irrelevant. Still, sometimes I sit on the floor, cry, and think about my past future dreams and the things that could have been. Because I am grieving the future that could have been.