I was almost 27 the first time I saw a psychiatrist. I had been in talk therapy for a year, which I wrote about in my last post, and I had gained a lot of understanding about how my thought patterns and my reactions to the things I had experienced in life were affecting the quality of my life.
But I was still deeply depressed, and my sense of hopelessness and the almost continuous OCD rituals I performed made me decide many times that I didn’t want to live anymore.
Some sense of hope kept me going, some belief that help was available somewhere.
My talk therapist referred me to a psychiatrist and I went to see her with some trepidation.
At our first session, she asked me a lot of questions. Some were hard to answer, because I had never said aloud some of the things that I told her: the obsessions I had that no one else seemed to have and the compulsions I acted out that I figured she must think were ridiculous.
She didn’t seem surprised by anything I said. After I had answered all her questions, she told me I was clinically depressed and had obsessive-compulsive disorder.
I can’t say I was surprised. I knew I was depressed, and I had known for years that I had OCD. But hearing her words, her diagnosis, made it real.
The doctor told me about a drug that had received final approval from the FDA just the month before. It was Anafranil, the first medication that could be prescribed specifically for OCD. It was a tricyclic antidepressant.
She had seen the drug at work during clinical trials, and she believed it would help both of my problems.
But Anafranil wasn’t yet available in pharmacies. So she started me on Prozac, saying it would help with the depression and possibly the OCD.
At home, before I took the first pill, I sat down on my couch with the medicine bottle in my hand and cried. I felt ashamed that I had to rely on a pill to make me feel better. I felt like I now carried a label that no one else I knew carried.
It was a new road to walk on, and I was afraid. But I took the pill.
My next appointment with the psychiatrist was two or three weeks later. I had a vague sense that I was feeling better, but I didn’t feel as much hope about the Prozac as I did about the Anafranil. Since that medication was meant to treat OCD, I thought it would be my better chance at getting better.
My doctor didn’t think it would be in pharmacies yet, but she picked up her phone and called the pharmacy I used. It had Anafranil in stock. She wrote me a prescription.
I was the first person for whom she prescribed Anafranil, she told me.
I stopped the Prozac and started the Anafranil. About three months went by. I continued to see the psychiatrist and my talk therapist. I experienced some relief from my OCD symptoms, but the difference the medication was making became crystal clear one spring day.
I was out on my little patio outside my apartment.
Picture a woman with OCD, with intense issues about germs and dirt, putting her hands in soil and on a plant, putting the plant into a non-sterile flowerpot to then take into the apartment.
And the woman is humming.
That’s what I was doing. When I realized that I was focused on my task, not worrying about anything, feeling content, I knew the medication was helping me.
Please know that I am in no way saying that Anafranil and Prozac are suitable or not suitable for anyone else. I don’t take either drug now.
But at that time, Anafranil helped me more than I could have ever imagined a medication could.
A lot of years with a lot of treatment plans have gone by since then. As time goes on, I will write more about that.How did you feel the first time you received treatment of any kind for your OCD and/or depression?