My Journey With:

Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) ~ Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) ~ Focal Impaired Awareness (Complex Partial) Seizures ~ Fibromyalgia ~ Chronic Myofascial Pain (CMP) ~ Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) ~ TMJ Dysfunction ~ Bipolar Disorder Type I Rapid Cycling ~ Migraines ~ Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) ~ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) ~ Keratosis Pilaris (KP) ~ Complex-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) ~ Panic Disorder ~ Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) ~ Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) ~ Nonsuicidal Self-Injury (Self-Harm) ~ Piezogenic Pedal Papules ~ Hashimoto's Thyroiditis ~ Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) ~ Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) ~ Specific Phobias ~ Chronic Headaches

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Invisible Illness Week: What is it like to receive a diagnosis of mental illness?

The first time I went to a therapist I was 13 and had been severely depressed since I was 10.  Two things happened to bring me into the depression that hit me when I was 10.  First of all, the hormones in my body were starting to go haywire, as I was starting puberty.  Secondly, age 10 is when the bullying I would experience throughout middle, junior, and high school, began.  I also began self-injuring when I was 12, though my doctors still don’t know I did before age 14.

Before my mom took me to my first appointment she explained what depression was.  My dad said to pull myself up by my bootstraps, but I just  couldn't.  (Later, through NAMI, he would learn to understand mental illness just isn't like that.)  I didn’t have many questions about what depression was, it seemed straightforward at the time and I was glad there was a name for what I’d been feeling.  I was mostly nervous to meet my therapist.  How was I supposed to discuss what was going on in my mind to a complete stranger?  When I met Judy, though, I instantly felt comfortable around her.  We had to travel an hour away from our small town to see her each week.  I was glad to miss school.  While I was an ‘A’ student, I was being bullied at school and every second I was gone was more than fine with me. 
After the first three sessions or so, Judy had my mom sit in the waiting room while she talked to me.  I was nervous all over again, but she made me feel at ease when we started talking.  I met Dr. L after seeing Judy a month.  Dr. L diagnosed me with Major Depression and said to watch for bipolar.  We didn’t know what bipolar was, so he might as well said “watch for flying spaghetti monsters,” we still would have just smiled and nodded.  He prescribed an anti-depressant and told me he wanted to see me again in a month. 
So things went on like that for awhile.  I would see Judy once a week, and Dr. L  once a month.  Eventually Judy said she could do no more for me, because she thought I was in a really good place.  I was very confused; because I knew in my head I wasn’t in a good place but had no idea how to tell anyone.  I never spoke up for myself at that time in my life and I was always very terrified (and still am, to a point) of authority figures.  After I talk with an authority figure, doctor, police, lawyer, preist, ect., I get so nervous I often cry either during or afterwards still today.  I continued to stay on the anti-depressant.

We moved to a different town when I was 14.  I hated it.  The move was really hard on me.  The bullying started right away.  The therapist my mom found for me had a huge personality clash with me, and vice versa.  I went through many years of therapists, doctors, wrong diagnosis, and pain, both emotional and physical.  Now skip forward five painful, depressing, years…

I am 19.  I was failing my classes at the university I was going to because I didn’t ever go to class.  Or do homework.  Or study.  Or show up for tests.  I was very, very manic.  My brain was moving so fast, and the rest of the world was going so slow.  It was maddening.  After months of mania I finally went into psychosis.  Maybe it was happening a lot more than I remember, though.  Psychosis is one of the scariest things anyone could imagine going through.  I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it, because there still is a lot of stigma out there.  Once you hit psychosis you no longer have any grip on reality.  I absolutely cannot describe how scary it is.
During that time I was also self-injuring worse than I ever had in my life.  Let me add that mania causes hypersexuality, which basically means you become very sexual, often having many partners and put yourself at risk because of it.  I didn’t have a lot of sexual partners, though I do have regrets.  One day I was in the university computer lab looking up stuff completely unrelated to school, when I came across the word “bipolar.”  I read about what it was and I was amazed.  This described me.  I was still on my dad’s insurance, so a couple of days later I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist.  I told her what was going on, and I told her I suspected bipolar.  She told me she did, too.  She diagnosed me Bipolar NOS.  NOS means Not Otherwise Specified.  It is a common diagnosis until the doctor figures out which type of bipolar you have.

This is a side note, I feel compelled to include.  Bipolar is spelled like this: "bipolar."  It is not hyphenated, there is no word called bi-polar.  That may have been an old way of spelling it, I don't know, but bipolar has no hyphens!!!  Also, my second pet peeve is the way people abbreviate bipolar.  Bipolar is abbreviated BP, not BPD.  BPD is Borderline Personality Disorder, something very different from bipolar.  So, please write "bipolar" or "BP" when referring to this illness.

How did I feel once I received the diagnosis?  Relieved!  I wasn’t the only one going through all of this and I wasn’t the only one who knew what this felt like.  There are others like me!  Not all people feel this way upon diagnosis, but this is how I felt.  I would eventually get the diagnosis of Bipolar I ultraradian rapid cycling.  I’ll explain that later in another blog.   It is hard some days.  I mean it is really, really hard some days.  I have two failed suicide attempts under my belt, one of them I changed my mind on and the other I must not have taken enough pills because I fortunately am still here.  I know, though, that I’ve already proved to myself that I can make it through a hell of a lot.  Sometimes it’s hard to see I’m strong, but I am.  I know that I am a strong woman who can make it through (almost) everything.  

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