Narratives are my non-professional, personal documentation of struggles with mental illness. Please excuse the language. Life ain’t always pretty.
Not This Time, DMV
You picked the wrong crazy person
After my first experience with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation was completed in 2016, I went through a major adjustment period. I had never really been completely healthy and functional in my adult life. I didn’t have a good gauge what a non-depressed life should feel like. So many of my experiences, interactions, and thought processes had been built on my depressed brain. Hell, I cry during normal situations. So when a very stressful situation actually DID happen, I would just have a complete meltdown. With depression, everything was so much harder. Took so much more effort. Was ridden with anxiety. I was EXHAUSTED all the time. All things seemed so hopeless.
During the spring, when my TMS had been completed and I was continuing to improve, I had to go to the DMV (which is enough to send a normal person into a pit of despair). I was new-ish to California and I needed to register my car, get new plates, and take the test to get my license. It was a 5+ hour process getting my car registered, so I had to return a couple days later to get my license. I was in line for close to two hours just to get to the initial front desk person and be directed to the people who dealt with the driver’s license process. I had about 90 minutes until I needed to be at work, and was a little on edge about making it there in time.
I get to the Initial Desk Guy, waiting for him to tell me which counter to go to next. IDK looks through my papers and tells me I don’t have all my necessary documents. I needed my birth certificate that I left at home.
The truth: I was in a hurry on my way to the DMV from work and didn’t want to spend the extra time stopping at home to pick up documents that I may or may not need. I figured I had a 50-50 chance. I was 100 percent wrong, so I was pretty upset with myself. Meltdown upset. Such a dumb mistake.
So I’m just looking at the guy like he’d flashed me with a memory removal flashy thingy from Men in Black. I felt like I was in the bottom of a valley surrounded by landslides coming at me from all sides. I knew I was about to burst into tears so I grabbed all my papers, pulled my sunglasses over my eyes, and bolted to my car. Halfway back to my house I’m sobbing like I’d just watched A Walk to Remember. Damn it, Mandy Moore.
I don’t know what happened, or what triggered it, but the Universe enlightened me and I knew I needed to toughen up. A lot. I turned off the radio to think more clearly. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’ve got to quit acting like a cream puff, man. You’re not depressed! You can’t continue to go through your life like you are. You owe that to yourself. And to the world.”
So instead of driving back early to work, I went home, grabbed my stupid documents and drove back to the downtown LA DMV. I knew I was going to be late getting back to work, which is something I typically do not tolerate of myself. But this was something I had to do. And I had to do it now.
Now..I owned up. But I didn’t say I stopped crying. The guy had given me a numbered ticket, so I walked straight up to the front desk with an unsettlingly inflamed face, flipped up my sunglasses and said “I’m back. I’ve got my documents.”
You know when you’ve been crying or upset about something and you have to go back into public and you’re worried about your appearance? Your mom or your friend will say, “Oh you look fine. No one is going to notice a thing.” And they’re right; 99 percent of the time no one is even paying attention.
Now was not one of those times. I looked like I had been to war. The guy was a little taken aback (I had, after all, just stormed past the line of 50 people looking like my face just had it out with a swarm of bees). He paused for a second and then quickly grabbed all of my papers and looked at my previous ticket. He said I had missed my call, but to go ahead and go on to the next desk. VICTORY. Sweet victory.
I was pretty quickly ushered through the series of desks because they thought my ticket number had just been skipped over (when in fact I had driven home to get my freaking forms of ID, what a badass). I finally reached the picture-taking stage. I was there. And I didn’t care what anyone else thought, for the first time in a long time. Any makeup had come off in the meltdown and half of my hair was just hanging loose from my ponytail over my right ear. It was the start of a newfound freedom.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), my license picture ended up conveying that whole “I don’t give a @$#%” vibe, and it looked like a homicide mug shot. It’s a wonderful memory.
And that’s how I started shifting my anxiety into determination. It still takes effort, every day. I will never not have anxiety. But I have SO much less, thanks to TMS. I’m learning how to channel those nervous thoughts so they don’t take over my brain. I can function now. I don’t have phone calls where I’ve worried I said something dumb, or sounded like an idiot, and ruminated about it for the next two days (seriously, I would do this).
I have freedom. I still hate talking on the phone, but now I’ll hang up and be like “man that was weird”. And then laugh about it and move on. Sometimes that’s all you can do.