Welcome to day 6 of the 31 Days of Mental Health for #Write31Days. Today, I’m feeling very ill-inspired, so I checked out the 30 days of mental illness awareness master list. This is an awareness challenge in which mental health sufferers answer 30 questions about their experience of mental illness. I am going to combine day 1 and 2 of the challenge and share how I feel about the diagnoses I have been given over time.
The first mental health diagnosis I received was adjustment disorder. Okay, I received a diagnosis of autism before, but most mental health professionals do not consider this a mental illness and in truth, it isn’t. It’s a neurodevelopmental disorder.
I received the diagnosis of adjustment disorder upon my admission to the psychiatric hospital in 2007. An adjustment disorder basically means an extreme reaction to stress that doesn’t meet the criteria for any other mental disorder (eg. depression). Well, how could I not agree to thsi diagnosis? I was under a lot of stress from living independently and I reacted in an extreme way.
I was fortunate at the time that insurance still covered treatment for an adjustment disorder. It would do in my case under the current policy too, because I was suicidal, but many people with psychosocial problems related to even more severe stressors such as a life-threatening illness go untreated for their mental health problems.
As I said before, I then received a diagnosis of impulse control disorder NOS. I didn’t feel right about this diagnosis. It wasn’t that I didn’t agree I had impulse control issues, but I had so many more issues. Why not diagnose me with half a dozen other NOS disorders?
Years later, I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To be very honest, these never sat right with me. Though I did feel validated that I had some dissociative experiences, I felt I may not meet the full criteria for DID. I did have a lot of identity confusion and depersonalization/derealization (feelings of unreality), but I didn’t have a lot of identity alteration (switching to different personalities) till after my diagnosis and never quite had amnesia (memory loss). Okay, let me clarify this: I did have a sense of identity alteration long before my diagnosis, but I tried to never show it on the outside. That changed after my diagnosis. Now I feel I might have dissociative disorder NOS, but I don’t want to bring up my experiences again for fear of being told that I imagine it all.
That was, after all, exactly what happened after a few years. I went to a dissociative disorders support group, where the support group leader, herself a DID sufferer, eventually kicked me out. Her reason was that she felt I had an imaginary dissociative disorder. My new therapist, who changed my diagnosis to BPD, didn’t exactly go along with this, but she did say that BPD better explained my symptoms than DID.
With regard to PTSD, I never felt I had the full classic PTSD symptom presentation. Though I did and do have flashbacks and nightmares, they aren’t necessarily specific to the trauma I survived. This is possible in PTSD with young children but not adults. I also did experience emotional numbing but not avoidance of triggers. In fact, I was often drawn to triggers. I still am. I did and do however experience many symptoms of complex PTSD. Then again, these are similar to those of BPD.
In 2013, I was finally diagnosed with borderline persoanlity disorder. I almost instantly agreed I have it, but then again, I did with most conditions I’d been diagnosed with. I do still feel I meet enough criteria for a diagnosis, though I don’t exhibit as many classic BPD behaviors as I used to when first coming to my current institution. This is possibly related to my autistic difficulty adjusting to change.