I’m a very analytical person. I like when things have names and definitions and concepts I can understand. One of the reasons I went into psychology was so I could put a name on my mother’s type of crazy. I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what exactly was wrong with her. There has to be something. People don’t just act like that for no reason. I needed an explanation.
I have since realized that my mother’s crazy is not diagnosable, or should I say, not limited to a single diagnosis. My mother exhibits the signs of narcissistic, histrionic, and borderline personality disorders. She’s also paranoid and likely has a mood disorder of some sort. But you know what? Knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better. Having a mental illness doesn’t excuse you from being an abuser. Hell, it doesn’t even excuse you from being asshole (that’s you, Dad). In my early 20s, I struggled a lot with placing blame. I so badly wanted to hate my mother for what she did, but then part of me thought, “what if she’s mentally ill?” I was just trying to find an excuse for all the shit she did and was still doing. Eventually, after several years, I realized all of that didn’t matter. My mother did what she did because of who she is as a person, not because of some illness. She had a choice.
Despite not caring about my mother’s diagnosis, I still so badly want to know what’s wrong with me. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. I would like to think that it would. A diagnosis provides a sense of direction, a method of treatment, an explanation of symptoms. I have yet to have that. It’s quite possible that my desire for a diagnosis, a name for my crazy, has been strengthened by my years of experience with different diagnoses. I never really had a concrete answer.
My first diagnosis was bipolar II at the age of 15. My first therapist worked with a psychiatrist who officially diagnosed me and started me on a mood stabilizer. I didn’t really understand the diagnosis, even more so now that I am older. My mood changes were nothing more than what is typically experienced by a teenager. My issues were much deeper than that. After more therapy, my diagnosis was changed to bipolar I with psychotic features. My therapist believed there were times in which I was out of touch with reality; I did things I didn’t remember doing and acted like a different person, which she attributed to psychosis. I now believe that those instances were actually times I had dissociated, not psychotic episodes. Back then, I had no idea what dissociation was, and apparently neither did my therapist.
When I returned to therapy a few years later, my therapist diagnosed me with social anxiety. I think he mistook my fear of talking with him (and others) as social anxiety when the real reason was because I was conditioned not to speak by my mother. I don’t blame him for that bad diagnosis; you can’t diagnosis someone accurately if you don’t get the full picture.
Many years later, when I scheduled an appointment to see my primary care physician, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Generally, I don’t condone primary care physicians diagnosing psychological disorders because their training is just not adequate in most cases. But I was desperate at the time and could not manage to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, so I did the only thing I could. I wasn’t looking for a diagnosis; I was just looking for relief.
After my first hospitalization, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression with suicidal ideation. The PTSD diagnosis made sense, as I had experienced some debilitating flashbacks as well as other common symptoms (irritability, trouble sleeping, and hypervigilence). The depression diagnosis I had no strong feelings about; it just seemed like something they labelled on most people. My diagnoses were relatively similar after my second hospitalization (which I would hope so, seeing as though it was less than two weeks later). The only difference was that they added “chronic” to my depression diagnosis.
When I started mandated therapy shortly after my second hospitalization, my therapist was required to make a diagnosis to report to the insurance company. After two hours of intake and two subsequent one-hour sessions, she completely ignored the PTSD diagnosis and any related anxiety and diagnosed me with depression secondary to asthma. This diagnosis was laughable. I was not depressed because of my asthma. Asthma was the least of my problems. And it wasn’t like she was unaware of my history. She was sent all of my information from the hospital. She was clueless. So clueless. She even had the nerve to tell me she didn’t think I had anxiety at all. Anxiety was probably the only thing I was sure I had in some form or another. She was such an idiot.
Around the same time, my PCP diagnosed me with ADHD. I was having trouble keeping attention, focusing on anything…hell, sitting still was difficult. I always had problems, but they seemed to be magnified in those last few months. It was never an issue before because I managed to function quite well academically as a child. It could have very well been all of the medications I was on that made it worse, or even just my ever-increasing stress levels. Who really knows.
When I was hospitalized for a third time in February, the ADHD diagnosis was dropped by the psychiatric nurse. Instead, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, chronic depression, and borderline personality disorder. The BPD diagnosis was shocking to me. I had extensive knowledge about the disorder from my psychology studies, and didn’t fit most of the criteria for diagnosis. I believe they made the diagnosis based on my self-injury. Many professionals automatically associate self-injury with BPD, even though it is also present in order disorders. I didn’t want that label on me. I also knew, through my studies, that many professionals did not want to work with someone with BPD. When I told my therapist about the diagnosis, she seemed to agree with my disapproval of it. It was comforting to at least know that someone was on my side and I wasn’t completely unaware of my own mental state.
As of right now, I don’t have a diagnosis. I have chosen to disregard all of my previous diagnoses because I don’t feel confident in any of the people who diagnosed me. I hope that eventually, in my current therapy work, I can be diagnosed with something…anything. At least this time, my therapist is taking her time and learning as much as she can about me and my history. I trust in her knowledge and experience more than anyone else. I just want to know that I’m not completely crazy. I need a name for what I’m experiencing. I need an explanation.