Why I Saw My First Psychiatrist, Part One

The following entry was written for RealMental.org on November 8th, 2007. I am writing the sequel to it today and have included this first part here as background for the coming sequel.

I visited my first psychiatrist when I was twenty years old. Over the course of several months before that, my sense of detachment from life had become more and more pronounced. I have never felt particularly real, firmly set in the here and now, so this gradual shift went unnoticed for quite a while. I wish I could point to a certain date or an incident as the starting point, but the initial changes were far too subtle for me to take note of at the time.

Along with my sense of detachment came a growing paranoia. It was inconstant, and its focus was erratic. That, too, came along so quietly that I did not notice it until one night when I was walking home from a friend's house. I turned a corner onto my street, took a few tentative steps, and found myself glued to the sidewalk with fear. I shot looks up and down the street. I was absolutely certain that someone was watching me with ill intent. There was not a whiff of wind, not another person or animal visible, and the night was bright with streetlights and a full moon. I stood near the corner and smoked a cigarette, looking right, looking left, and trying not to blink in a bid to be aware of as much of my surroundings as possible. Eventually, I rubbed out my cigarette with the toe of my shoe, found my courage, and stepped out into the middle of the street. I figured that everything would be most visible to me from there, and it was comforting to walk where the streetlights shone brightest. No one was going to outwit me in the middle of the night.

And that's when things took a very bad turn, a turn I would never have suspected.

Both sides of the street were lined with parked cars, and when I reached the second cars in from the curb, I stopped and did a double-take. The interior of the vehicle on my right was dark inside and also shaded from the streetlights by overhanging elms, so I could not be sure, but I thought I saw a body slumped over the steering wheel. I was too terrified to take a closer look, but from what I could tell, the person had been shot through the forehead. That can't be a body in there. It's not a body. It's not a body, I thought. I looked again. It was like I was high. I could see the body, but at the same time I could not really make it out. I held my breath and stood stone still for what seemed like half an hour, not knowing how to move forward or go back to the place I had been. I decided to continue with my plan to walk down the middle of the road, because I simply could not accept that I was seeing what I was seeing. It's not a body. It's not a body. It's not a body.

But then I saw another body in the third car on the right, and then in the fourth on the left, and then in the fifth on the left. I walked faster and faster until I was running at top speed, desperate to get inside out of the night and into a lit house. I knew that there could not possibly be bodies slumped over steering wheels in nearly every car for a full block. There just couldn't be. But knowing that what I was seeing was not real did not counteract the terror I felt at seeing it.

I raced up the stairs into my boyfriend's house, chest heaving. I had never been so relieved to be home. Are you okay? he asked. Yeah, fine, I said, panting, I just thought I'd run home.

It was shortly after that that I decided it was time to find my first psychiatrist.

(read Part Two)

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