How to find a shrink? Question about confidentiality?

Recently I've been feeling unlike myself. I think that has been going on for about a year or so, but every time it happens it intensifies. Typically, I have these little episodes. They don't last long, three or four days at the most but they USUALLY only last for one or two days. I don't know how to describe it, but I'm going to try. My head feels like it's gunked up with some dark slime that discolors my thoughts and makes me feel very unlike myself. I just feel so down. If this slime lasts long enough (more than a day or so) I feel like I'll never break away from it. This weird head thing is getting to the point where it's really difficult to deal with it. I try so hard to hide it, and to fight it on my own but it's exhausting. 

I've always been able to shake it off on my own, but after my latest episode (happened almost two weeks ago) I'm concerned. I was having a really rough day (funky head stuff wise) and at the end of the day I was at the mall with my family. We hopped on the down escalator to leave the mall. I was zoned out, inside my own head feeling almost overwhelmed with these horrible, alien feelings when a thought that I KNEW wasn't my own popped into my head... when I looked down I started to think about what would happen if I jumped. I don't know how or why I thought that. I don't think the thought was completely my own. Usually when the dark gunk in my mind creates a thought that I think of as being "over the edge" I realize this within seconds and I shake it off. But that night it was just so strong that I actually thought about it for a few minutes. (I know, I'm weak.) I thought about it all the way down the escalator, as we walked out of the mall, and even as we loaded our bags into the backseat of the car. It wasn't until we merged onto the highway to head home that I snapped out of it, everything up until then (when I look back on it) is a blur, and I just remember some of the thoughts I had.

I'm scared and I'm embarrassed. I would NEVER kill myself. I had a rough time getting through my senior year of high school (my best friend died the summer before and I felt completely alone), but that was almost two years ago and I have so much going for me. I work two jobs (one of which I absolutely LOVE), I'm a college student, and I'm about to move out (I was financially able long ago, it's just hard to find a nice place that's available) but I'm closer than ever. I have a great, supportive boyfriend and I have some really close friends. I'm happy about my life, and I feel optimistic about the near future. I don't want to die, I'd never kill myself. I don't know what I was thinking, I honestly didn't feel like myself at all. 

The next day I woke up more than early enough for work. I laid in bed and did nothing, just laying there flipping through magazines and browsing the web on my phone. Most people do something like that when they first wake up, but I did that for almost two hours. It's like I wasn't completely there. I don't remember anything about the magazines I browsed through, or the news pieces I saw on the internet. So I basically just did nothing. I completely wasted time, and laid there helpless while the dark slime moved through my head. 

When I realized that I only had an hour before I had to leave for work (the job that I LOVE- I'm actually trying to do a good enough job  there that I'll get hired full time when something is available.) I wasn't even startled or bothered. Usually I'd be freaking the hell out, but no. I was way to calm. By the time I left the house it was really late. I ended up being fifteen minutes late. I had to make up some excuse about being "sick." I love everyone I work with, and I really respect both of my supervisors. It killed me to lie to them, but I was so embarrassed and there might be a full time position opening up in early 2016. I can't have anyone there thinking I'm crazy. 

I'm deadly serious about my job, and about being the best one there... I try anyways! I don't know what came over me. 
I just turned twenty last month, and the first time I remember something like this happening to me, even in the smallest way, I was eighteen. Even though it's all just in my head it feels like a real sickness whenever it happens. 

So now I'm wondering... do I need to see somebody? What if I do see somebody? If I mention the escalator incident will they call somebody? Or will they respect my wishes and confidentiality? I honestly feel like I'd never actually kill myself, or make a plan, or anything like that. I know there are laws regarding this subject. If I told someone what would they do? I'm still on my parents healthcare plan, so if I'm committed somewhere they'll find out. I'm really focused on my job and my schoolwork right now, something like this could really set me back if whoever I chose to "talk to" decided to make a big deal of it. Not to mention that if someone spilled my secret I wouldn't feel comfortable talking to them ever again. I don't now much about how these things go, that's why I'm asking about it. Maybe if I did seek counseling I could mention everything but the thought I had on the escalator. Is that an okay plan? 

Onto the next step... I'm a broke college student. I have two options. 
I'm a distance learning student, but my college is pretty accomodating when it comes to stuff like this. All I have to do is call a phone number whenever I need to speak with somebody. 
Another option I have is to use a service that's provided to me through my job. I only have three sessions before I have to start paying out of pocket, but my employer will pay for the first three. However, I looked into this service and it's mostly for people who have problems that are getting in the way of their work (ADD, etc...) and (in my opinion anyways) it doesn't seem to be the best option for one who has problems that are more personal than work related. Besides, I really want to keep all this stuff out of my work. I have to get the full time job, I have to seem like I'm perfect and I'm doing fine all on my own. 
Which is the better option? Any advice? 

Thank you so much for reading, I know this is a long post. Sorry about that! 

Thank you for writing and providing a detailed description of what's happening.

I don't recognize it as any of the mental illnesses I'm familiar with.

If I understand correctly, these episodes are brief, lasting a few hours to a few days. Major mental illnesses tend to last for many months.

Have you had a general physical lately? My first thought is take a look at what you've been eating when these things happen. See if you can find any correlation between when these episodes happen and something else that's happening with your body, such as what you eat, drink, exercise. My guess is something is getting thrown off balance with your body, and that affects the mind when the internal body chemistry gets thrown off, and then the body recovers and brain works again.

A brain scan would be nice, just to make sure there isn't some spot thing going on. It probably wouldn't show anything. Unlikely a doctor would jump to that as a first thing. 

You won't be committed. You're obviously coherent. You wrote a nice lengthy description and it's all coherent. People who get taken to the psychiatric care facility are people who have lost contact with reality, and they're not sure what's real and what isn't anymore, and they're deemed a potential threat to others or themselves; or they are seriously depressed people who can't even function anymore; or they've gone manic and are doing very crazy strange things and not thinking rationally anymore.

Basically if a police officer looks at you and thinks you're fine then nothing to worry about. Even if you're not fine, even if you really are acting rather weird and it's apparent you have some sort of active mental illness going on, the officer first tries to talk you into voluntarily going, suggesting it might be a good idea. (I think it's a lot less paperwork that way. They can't just arrest you because they think you're "crazy", they need to have something legal to go on.) Then that's only the first step. Then you have to be evaluated by a professional triage nurse, since police officers aren't really trained doctors. If you make it past the triage nurse, then you get interviewed by a psychiatrist doctor. Then they probably don't have room for you anyway, so even if they do determine you could benefit from their services, you might just end up on a waiting list.

Anyway, point is don't be afraid to tell people. Somewhere out there is a person who will actually understand and be able to direct you. I suggest next step is to ask around, with the goal of finding someone who actually knows something or someone who would be a good person to go talk to. College is a great place to find services. You could call that number and see if they can direct you who to ask next. College may have a Student Health Service place, because they want their students to be healthy (healthy students learn better which makes the school look better). College doctors are used to the kinds of problems that college students often get. I suggest start with a general physical examination, general blood lab tests, just to make sure there isn't something going on that happens to affect the brain as a side effect.

Also definitely try the job counselor. You might get lucky and they might know someone, or they could ask around their colleagues and see if anyone has any knowledge of where to go next.

A psychiatrst doctor specializes in brain disorders. Usually depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia. It doesn't sound like any of those or someone else would have said something by now. A psychiatrist would probably first want you to get a physical and lab tests to assess your general overall health.

Might just be stress. Are you working too hard? Getting enough rest? I see you're deadly serious about your job, and being the best. That could induce a bit of stress. Any underlying fears? You could mention any underlying fears with the job counselor, or any counselor. If possible it's good to set aside half an hour each day to just relax and not think about things; stop doing things and just be. When your mind wanders just let that thought go, or write it down on a notepad, then let it go and return your focus to the present moment. Focus your mind on the present moment, and don't latch on to any thoughts. It's very healthy for the brain.

Yes having to seem like you're perfect and doing fine all on your own, that could definitely cause a lot of stress. Stress is bad, very bad. Fear is bad. Relaxing helps combat fear and stress. The stress of being even 15 minutes late to work. Stress can cause all sorts of health problems that at first appear to be other things, like heart problems, but turns out it's just runaway stress. 

I'm leaning towards working on relaxing as a brain exercise. You could research Mindfulness, Mindfulness Mediatation, join a Therapeutic Yoga class, Qi-Gong, Tai-Chi are mindfulness motion exercises. 

Waking up in bed and doing nothing might be a sign the brain needs more of that. Maybe that dark slime in brain is brain's way of being overwhelmed and shutting down to save itself. Need a balanced life. Overwork yourself or expect too much out of yourself and you'll just burn out and really crash hard. It's common among college students who push themselves too hard. Your college may have counselors and doctors and, oh, I just remembered you're a distance learning student. Well in that case if they can't see you directly, I guess over the phone is the next best thing. 

In summary my suggestion is focus on the stress in your life, and the fears you have, and see if some Mindfulness brain exercises can help with that. And also make sure you eat healthy, get adequate sleep, and a general physical exam once a year. All counselors probably very familiar with stress induced disorders.

Hope that helps. Best wishes at school and work and boyfriend.

Hi Del,

Thank you for replying. All of your suggestions are great! I just want to clarify some things (it was the middle of the night last night when I posted and I probably wasn't being very clear). I really don't think I need a brain scan, my head never hurts and I never feel anything weird in my head it's actually more of an emotional thing. When I said that this dark slime gets in my head and gunks up my thoughts I wasn't being 100% literal. What I actually feel is (probably?) a little more common.... Everybody feels down sometimes but I think I get down to often. I feel a little down today actually, so that should make it easier to describe (since I'm feeling it right now). I just feel despair, I feel down for no reason at all. I don't feel like this today, but sometimes I feel like I'm at the bottom of the deepest, darkest hole and I'll never get back out. It's horrible, and I don't know why it happens to me. I'm usually such a bright, optimistic, happy, friendly person! This has been going on (and worsening) for the past couple of years. I don't know what's wrong with me, but trust me when I say that it's definitely an emotional thing and not something you would see in a brain scan. But you never know, maybe I am just stressed. This just feels like it could be something else. When I had that thought (about jumping off the escalator) I had actually been thinking all day and wondering what the point is (of anything), because sometimes it all feels hopeless. That's how it began and it eventually it just spiraled into jumping off an escalator. Which I'm glad I didn't do! I'll take a closer look at your reply and type a more thoughtful reply myself once I'm home from work. Thanks for your help!

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for clarifying. I understand now this has been going on for a couple of years, and worsening, and you are college age. Late teens / early 20's / college age is a common time for mental illness problems to manifest itself. Could be clinical depression which I am very familiar with as I have it myself. Fortunately it's completely treatable. Unfortunately it may take a lot of trying different things and medications before finding a combination that works for you. (It took me 2 years.) Don't give up. The long term prognosis is good. Recognizing that something might be wrong is encouraging.

Diagnosing if it's a clinical depression problem or just something normal or something that will pass on it's own probably takes an experienced psychiatrist doctor or someone very familiar with clinical depression. (I have the disadvantage of since I have it myself, I tend to think anything that looks remotely like it must be it, so I probably tend to overdiagnose the rest of the world as having the same problem I do. Then again, I'm discovering that quite a lot of other people actually do have it, they just never tell anyone about it.)

If you talk to a doctor or psychiatrist doctor, mention:

1. It's been going on for a couple of years, and worsening 
2. feel down for no reason at all (that's a good clue)
3. bottom of the deepest, darkest hole and I'll never get back out. It's horrible.
4. brief intermittant suicidal thoughts (I've learned mine usually abate in a day or two, so I know to just hang on and ride them out.)

5. college age (that's the age this often starts.)

Well it could definitely be clinical depression. It's starting to look like it (but then again I'm biased towards thinking everything is clinical depression).

I found this one story online which may be helpful. I recommend give it a read and see if you identify with it or not.

A psychiatrist doctor would interview you, initial interview is usually a bit longer, get a background history of your family, anyone else in your family have these problems? (Often it runs in families, maybe genetic, though not always.) Any other health problems? Background history of your past up to the present, how long has this been going on, how long do the episodes last, have you noticed it getting better or worse? Just print out what you wrote here and show the psychiatrist doctor. It's very well written. Excellent starting point.

Would probably be good to at least get established with a psychiatrist doctor. Then, if it gets worse, you have a doctor to go to, and you know it's treatable (even curable. I'm fine, as long as I take my medication I never think about it. Only when I stop taking my medication then I go downhill and notice. After doing that a few times I've decided it's a bad idea to stop taking my medication. I'll just keep taking it thank you because I like being well.)

And it's good to have someone monitoring you, keep track of how you're doing. Psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, anyone. Or even a general purpose doctor. General purpose doctors are getting better trained at recognizing these things, since it's becoming so common. Some general purpose doctors will even offer to prescribe antidepressant medications for milder cases such as yours, since they know there's a shortage of psychiatrist doctors and they're more expensive. After trying some common antidepressant medications if none of them work they may eventually refer you to a psychiatrist doctor since the psychiatrist specializes in this and will be able to deal with the harder to treat cases.

Best wishes and thank you for writing. Sounds like you have a bright optimistic future ahead. Hope passing on my experience helps.

Although I am not qualified to actually have an opinion and I haven't learned to much on this subject yet , Could it be a form of Dissociation ?Dissociation from my understanding is a defense mechanism that causes individuals to separate from their consciousness in a sense . Experiencing a trauma can cause the onset of dissociation ( Your best friends death could be classed as a trauma). Episodes can vary in frequency , intensity and how long they last for. During dissociative episode individuals may do something and although they are aware it has happened to them they don't remember doing it or feel as if they watched it happening it to them rather then being the one in charge of their actions. It can cause in some cases gaps in times. As I don't feel completely confident in my ability to actually offer advice I have attached some links below that explain it better then I have.    <--- Gives a good definition of dissociation. <--- Offers a overview of what it is , symptoms , risk factors etc. <--- intresting easy to read article    <--- gives symptoms (As I dont really know what sludge is but maybe Depersonalisation or Derealisation descrive the feeling of sludge )

Hopefully this make some sort of sense to you , 
Good Luck 

Hi WhatIf, I don't think it's  dissociation but thank you for your advice! I think if anything, it's closer to depression. Not that I know what that feels like, but I did take this depression test (link below) and had a score of 14.

I *might* be joining a stress management group in my area, but I'm not sure if I will or if I will even have the time to (which is ironic, I know). It's just something I've been considering because I've looked into the costs of therapy and it's not something I can afford right now. 

Mindfulness Meditation is one technique that may help alleviate stress. (I recently read It raises the serotonin level to help biobalance the brain, whatever that means. Practicing it for a few months and MRI scans show it makes a difference.)

Belonging to a group of people who meet regularly also helps fill our instinctive need to "herd". (Like animals do. The animals that stray from the herd are more likely to get eaten, so we all developed an instinctive dislike of being alone and isolated.) Doesn't really matter what the group does, as long as they do it together. Many are free. (If you're lucky or unlucky enough to know someone with a drinking problem you can go to Al-Anon groups. If you know someone with a drug problem you can go to Nar-Anon groups. I don't qualify for AA or NA because I never drink or do drugs.)

Just a couple of ideas off the top of my head. Best wishes!


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