I don’t like to subscribe to micro-labels when it comes to mental health, i prefer to think of it as a sliding scale. like sexuality or gender. thankfully my therapist also shares the same opinion.
however, sometimes a diagnosis is necessary. sometimes putting a label on things can help you breathe a sigh of relief, or connect with those also suffering from the same branch of mental illness.
i have personally tiptoed around this diagnosis for a while, for almost a decade. but to have a therapist finally say “yes, that’s what i’ve thought from our very first meeting” is a relief. but it’s also a source of great upset because i have already been met with prejudiced attitudes from people who i thought were on my mental health “team”, if you will.
my diagnosis is bpd. and histrionic. as well as what i already knew; ocd, gad, and mdd. that looks like a shit scrabble hand of mental health diagnoses.
so there you go. a brief and unimaginative life update.
3 thoughts on “a shit scrabble hand of mental health diagnoses”
Once upon a very long time ago, I too took a trip through the mental health industry, and these are my retrospective thoughts. I offer them in case they may help, even if only in deciding what to reject.
The main point is you are in charge. I think a lot of ‘mental illness’ comes from people, often family members, “knowing what’s best” for others, which for me certainly, was very dangerous. You, and only you, know what is best for you.
Perhaps a ‘diagnosis’ can help by imposing some order on the chaos sometimes for some people. But one must be careful that it does not do more harm than good. Labels can become very sticky, as you seem to have discovered already.
It is indeed a shit scrabble hand. And whilst it may be where/how you are currently stuck, it can only be a tiny part of who you are. It is just a kind of summary of how you have responded, thus far, to what happened to you that cannot have been your fault. It is not necessarily your future.
So it is entirely possible you can change how you respond to whatever it is – which might of course be very hard to do – but is not changing even harder? If this wasn’t true there would be no point to therapy and no effective treatments.
Every psychologist says that problem behaviour does not spontaneously arise in a vacuum – it has to be caused by something. I believe the crazy self-destructive behaviour of many teens and twenty-somethings is a desperate attempt to escape intense mental pain. (Which then causes more problems than it solves in the long run.) They now know that in human brains emotional and physical pain are the same thing deep down, and that the emotional parts of human brains are the same as in animals. The human will sacrifice its own body to save its mind, the more so when the mind is in fear of its own life – just as a rodent will chew off its own limb if it is caught in a trap. Every mind, every living thing, has an instinct to try and survive – why should ‘diagnosed’ people be excluded?
I myself still have strong regrets and unpleasant flashbacks about things I did in my earlier years. But I now understand they were actually survival strategies driven by extreme fear. Therefore I don’t have anything to apologise for. Granted with the wisdom of hindsight they do not look much like survival strategies, but that is what they were in the heat of those moments. Could this be what you now unconsciously cling to out of habit – the extreme survival strategies of childhood that now do not work for you as an adult?
None of us can un-happen anything. But a mental health diagnosis is not an immutable fact – it is just some one else’s best short-hand guess of how you maybe got to be where you are now.
People, myself included, can and do, recover and repair. For all that you have probably lost on the way thus far, there is still a lot of good living to be had. Although finding and doing it may be not easy, cheap or quick.
So even though the truth will indeed set you free, it will very like you piss you off a great deal first – so much so in fact, that you could be strongly tempted to avoid it.
A psychologist once told me that some people actually preferred, that is to say were actually re-assured by, a ‘diagnosis’ of a ‘mental illness’ because it was less painful than facing up to the fact that their parents had failed to love and protect them as they should have, accidentally or otherwise, or some such.
Someone somewhere once said that ‘mental health is dedication to the truth at any cost’, which is a belief I personally share. Although I don’t deny having succumbed to the comforts of denial on occasion.
Ask yourself, what is your true inner belief about what led up to your ‘diagnosis’- childhood abuse and neglect, or dodgy genes and broken biochemistry? Or something else? Were you ever the victim of a serious crime?
Because the recovery and repair that could be yours for the taking depends partly on how and where you might go looking for it, or how you might choose to rebuild it. Or you might believe that, wherever we are, whatever we do, we are in fact always home. The point is, you are the architect, the navigator, the builder, whatever. Not your family, not your lovers, not whoever, it is your opinion only that counts.
We are all brought up to believe that ‘illness’ is something that happens to us – do you actually believe that, and would it help if you didn’t? And if not, why not?
So that is my 2 cents worth.
(Just so you know, a lot of this was inspired by Sheldon Kopp books, which I loved to read when I was in the thick of it.)
Thank you so much for such a well-written and thoughtful response. A lot of what you what said resonates with me deeply. And a lot of it it what I have discussed with my therapist. That a diagnosis is not a prison sentence, it’s not permanent. But I think after experiencing these symptoms for over a decade, it was high time I got the diagnosis I needed.
I’m trying my best not to cling to it, as you say, and to let myself be defined by it. I know for a fact these problems did arise from emotional neglect and to an extent abuse from one family member over an extended period of time. We are now trying to work thing a out and talk over what happened all those years ago.
Again, thank you so nuch for your comment. It’s truly appreciated.
LikeLiked by 1 person
There is that saying “If you let someone do something to you, you are really doing it to them” – In a good way hopefully. That is, I must say it helped me to try and help you – I somehow needed to put my own thoughts in order.
We have had similar experiences growing up. For me it is looking back to 40+ years ago, whilst you seem to be more in the realisation and recognition of it.
I am sad to learn what happened to you, but glad to read that you are dealing with it so constructively it and I believe in your forthcoming success with all this. I sense tenacity.
It is good to know you are being helped and that you have a chance to talk things through with whoever, so I hope that turns out how you want. But even if it doesn’t you have actually already achieved so much just by finding the courage to make the acknowledgement. I think the game is that you let it go, not that someone else necessarily picks it up.
I myself tick the boxes for avoidant PD. I have had major anxiety, described as agoraphobia, and have been an inpatient on a locked ward for three months, but those days are thankfully long gone.
However I do look back on those times now as amongst the best things I ever did. In stark contrast to the tawdry social stigma around the psychiatric patient role, those times were immensely positive for me as doing and being that patient, having those ‘diagnoses’, enabled me to turn my life around completely. I am confident the same is in store for you, because it is obvious you have got the brains, the courage and the will. So my take on diagnoses now is that they can be very useful to visit as a tourist, but I try not to set up home there !
One thing I would like to recommend is learn to be selfish – practice every day – because people with our history have typically been so heavily conditioned to put other people’s needs first, so much so that we can lose sight of who we are, what we want, where we want to go, and how to get there. So much so that when we start to regain control, we may not always be sure how to proceed. We have been given so many hats and costumes to wear, we have been so conditioned to appease others that we may struggle to recognise our own best interest and make our own choices. So we need to focus on what it is that we need, what we want, because we didn’t get the chance to learn such things when we were spending all our psychic energy on surviving.
All the best, my friend.
LikeLiked by 1 person