I have been through a mental health diagnosis or two in my lifetime. I have tried many different methods to cope along the way too. Obviously the two most common treatments for mental health disorders are medications and psychotherapy. I have my share of good, and not so good, experiences with both. Today I am on the cusp of trying something new. Before I do I want to share some of my story.
My first diagnosis was at age 14. I had a therapist tell my parents I was a nerd. They needed to buy me a computer That wasn’t her official diagnosis but it was the word she used to describe why I was different. She said I lacked common sense but I made up for it with strong passion, whatever that nonsense was her solution was for my parents to remove me from the state I was in. Looking back on it I don’t think she had my best intentions at heart. I think she was tasked with getting me, a so-called trouble maker, out of the way.
My second attempt at therapy resulted in a host of words being thrown at me. They ranged from Borderline Personality Disorder to General and Social Anxiety disorder along with Severe depression. Of course I was a closeted transgender queer woman living in rural Nebraska so I had other issues boiling up mind you. She chose to treat the depression and social anxiety under the belief, or so she told me, those were the things ailing me the most. We tried medications for the depression, SSRI’s, and talk therapy along with group activities she sanctioned and administered.
Both of those experiences were awful for me. The SSRI’s made me suicidal. I tried several different ones before giving up entirely. But what happened next is what sticks out in my mind. She organized a meet up with other patients of hers who also have social anxiety at a Halloween party. I was told to mingle. To talk to other patients. I sat there at a table by myself the entire night listening to the corny music the DJ played. Then it happened. My first psychotic episode I can recall. I began hearing voices. I began seeing what I believed were spirits. The room began to spin out of control. I left. I ended my therapy cold turkey saying I never wanted to experience anything like that ever again.
I have had my share of psychotic episodes since. Mostly I either hear voices, have racing thoughts or sometimes experience extreme paranoia I am being watched by evil spirits. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye I see a woman smirking. Sometimes I hear laughter. It is the laughter I hear the most. The voices, when I do hear them, are incoherent. They aren’t tangible thoughts per se just random gibberish. Mostly whispers. They are rare but when it happens I cannot sleep for days.
I have had three separate psychiatric professionals tell me I have PTSD. One listed it as chronic on her diagnosis chart. I have been told that whatever trauma I suffered, mostly complex by their accounts according to my testimony, are what triggers my other ailments. Trauma. My mother has asked me what trauma I experienced. When I tell her she often scoffs that wasn’t so bad. I know, get over it I’ve been told my entire life.
Then they added bipolar disorder to the mix. Finally I had answers. I had a reason for why I was the way I was. No longer were they just treating symptoms, manifestations of my broken psyche but now they had a name for my illness that could be treated. Finally I had words to describe the things I have always felt. This was the first time in my life any treatment a professional had tried seemed to be working. For the first time in my life I feel better. I feel stable. I feel like I am not a victim of the universe rather a survivor. A warrior. I feel stronger at the same time more vulnerable than ever.
Having a name for my illness was a start. It also affected the treatment they tried. Things have been improving ever so slightly from before when I was shooting in the dark. I no longer sit alone, afraid of the sounds I might hear in that darkness, the sights I might envision out of the corner of my eye, nor do I fear the darkest recesses of my own soul nor what it will show me when I slumber. I understand myself better now.