By Kimberly Zapata
I’ve never liked the color white. It is bland, cold, sterile and is the backdrop for most bad memories. My father died in a windowless white room — in a white bed, covered in white sheets. My first apartment was white, and the unfinished walls were a stark reminder that this arrangement was temporary. This was not my home. And the color reminds me of absence: of what could be but is not there. So when I entered my new psychiatrist’s office — a large white room, overlooking several posh restaurants in the SoHo district of lower Manhattan — I was unsettled.
My hands shook, legs bounced and I struggled to focus. Words made little to no sense.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said the color alone caused my panic. It didn’t. My anxiety peaked hours earlier, when I wondered if this randomly selected shrink would hear me. If he could help. But the aesthetic definitely made things worse. It reminded me how sick I was. How desperately I needed help.
The good news is, white walls aside, he proved to be a fantastic doctor. He was (and is) empathetic, sympathetic, compassionate and kind. He is also extremely knowledgable, and an hour later, I left his office with new prescriptions and a new diagnosis: bipolar II.
In my heart, I already knew I had bipolar. I had been dealing with manic highs and crippling lows for years. And while I have struggled with mental illness most of my life — I was diagnosed with depression when I was 15 years old, when I went from being a straight-A student to one who could barely pull a C or D — this diagnosis was 18 years (and two suicide attempts) in the making.