Any time you have any kind of mental health condition it’s tempting to blame everything on the diagnosis. Having a hard time? Must be the TS. Not relating well to others? Must be the TS. Fatigued all the time? Must be the TS! Right?
No, not always.
This goes hand-in-hand with the oft quoted phrase, “I have TS but it doesn’t have me.” People are more than just the sum of their diagnoses, and life is more than just a set of symptoms.
Earlier this week I visited my doctor to discuss a recent increase in anxiety. As part of the visit I had to fill out a mental wellness questionnaire they’re asking everyone to fill out, not just people who are there to talk about their anxiety. It consisted of a series of questions you’re supposed to rate on a scale from “never” to “every freaking day”. (Paraphrasing here.) The questions were things like, “Have you lost interest in your hobbies?” “Are you unable to focus on the tasks at hand?” “Have you had thoughts of harming yourself?”
My answers read like they’d been filled out by a bored kid who just circled the biggest number for each answer; the number that meant “every freaking day”. (Paraphrasing here.)
But of course that’s the case, right? This is someone with TS and OCD, right? Anxiety has to go with that, right? Depression, too, right? Must be related, right?
Not really, no. Sure, all those things are true, but that’s not why I circled the most dismal answers to each of the questions. I circled those things because a lot of crappy stuff has been going on in my life recently and I’m depressed and anxious. It’s entirely situational, and I expect my disposition to improve once the situation changes. But for now I’m feeling pretty rotten.
Late last year my cat contracted tuberculosis. A few months later my father fell and hurt himself, and needed someone to help him get back on his feet (so to speak). Shortly after I got back from helping my father, my cat died. Shortly after that my father had two strokes. Shortly after that I found out my aunt was dying. And shortly after that I was told that the family of the boy who’d beaten up my son at school was pressing charges against him. For assault.
Anxiety? Yes. Depression? Yes. Reasonable cause for almost daily panic attacks? You betcha.
Even slightly related to my TS or OCD? Not at all.
The visit went well. We talked about the questionnaire, the anxiety, the panic attacks, and all the contributing factors leading up to where I am now. We both agreed it’s practically all situational and that things really should improve over time, provided no other disasters happen in the meantime. I went home with an as-needed prescription I hope not to have to use much, and never to have to refill.
Oh, but I need to get my cholesterol checked again. It’s been over a year.
(And nope, that doesn’t have anything to do with TS or OCD either. That has to do with being human.)