This post is for the month long series titled “Stuck in my Head”. This feature is written by Kat, a university student and a mod from the WOC Recovery tumblr.

I had major depressive disorder. I struggled with it, I lived with it. I self-analyzed every thought and emotion, I was convinced I knew everything about my mental illness.

My friend said to me: “Do you think you might have PTSD? You act a lot like my friend who has it. ”

I had been talking about a roommate situation from a while back. It went badly because I became the extra wheel almost immediately, which was disappointing. But when I was unable to make friends anywhere nearby, I broke and became clinically depressed. First, I was in a lot of pain, later on I became very numb and space-y. My appearance was changing, and my fear of being ridiculed by men increased exponentially. It had been present prior to being emotionally abused by a male friend, but had been relatively dormant until then.

I didn’t know how to manage my depression, so my space became disorganized and I was sleeping very late. This clashed with my roommates’ lifestyle. I was constantly apologizing, trying to change, but I couldn’t maintain any of my efforts. After being kicked out of the apartment, I was terrified of running into them. I felt horrific shame, to the point where I forgot that I hadn’t been accepted by them from the beginning. I eventually ran into one of my now-former roommates and apologized to them.

I had possibly suspected that I have problems relating to guys who reminded me of my former friend. I went out of my way to avoid being noticed by men like that, which wasn’t too difficult, but when it did happen I would bolt. I still wasn’t convinced, because I had been raised to believe that only certain things-any form of permanent loss or illness- were a Big Deal. Even though I understood struggles or trauma shouldn’t be compared in that way- and applied this mentality when conversing with others- I could not apply it to myself without feeling guilty. So I acknowledged that in a detached way.

But my roommates? That seemed completely random. “Think about it”, my friend said. I was about to respond about how what she said couldn’t be right- then…oh. I realized that my fear and avoidance of my roommates was indistinguishable from how I felt around certain guys. I looked up PTSD symptoms. There’s a wide range, but I matched the avoidance symptoms. I also discovered that my numbness, spaciness, and forgetfulness matched the symptoms of dissociation. This was a relief to discover because I had lost months of my life due to not being present and not being able to control that. I am still researching symptoms and trying to learn grounding techniques to help them.

Apparently, there’s two official types of PTSD: simple and complex. The first stems from one traumatizing event. The second comes from traumatizing or stressful events occurring regularly for an extended period of time. I tried to research about complex PTSD and emotional abuse but the primary situation discussed was emotional abuse from parents, not peers. Abuse from parents or guardians is widely recognized as a serious issue and not something that’s acceptable to minimize. But how could I ever say I got complex PTSD from bullying? I’m still in the process of accepting it. Experiencing PTSD symptoms from something not recognized as traumatic is so confusing, especially when you are taught to “push through it” and “so many people had it worse”.

I think now is a good time to mention self-diagnosis of mental illnesses. There’s nothing wrong with it, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This is true especially if you don’t have access to healthcare but even if you choose not to for personal reasons. There is no biological test for mental illnesses, you are basically just interviewed and evaluated via a list of symptoms. You can easily find a list of symptoms online, just make sure the website is reputable (I’ve included a link to a site below). No doctor knows your mind better than you, especially with their track record of misdiagnoses- most commonly diagnosing bipolar disorder as depression. However, giving yourself anti-depressants or medicating yourself is not something I agree with – it’s a trial and error process, even with supervision. And considering the possible side effects, it’s much too risky.

If you do have access, I would recommend seeing a counselor with high reviews and go from there. If you need medication, that’s okay. Psychiatry as an institution is pretty awful to so many people- but if you need it, try to go by recommendations or reviews for a better experience so it can help you. You are not hurting people with “real” diagnoses. You are not lying for attention. Think about it, if you make the decision to see a doctor or counselor, you already know something is wrong and probably tried to figure it out before hand. As long as you don’t partake in risky treatments, you are justified.

To help with that, this is a site specifically for therapists that has worksheets for patients- worksheets that contain information or activities for certain treatment, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There is a long list of illnesses/problems you can click on at the bottom of the page and look at specific resources for. The second site has CBT self-help for depression/anxiety/anger, the third has self-help for dialectal behavior therapy (DBT).

I believe in you. Just take it one day at a time. -Kat