I haz it.
I don’t have a diagnosis, but i could probably get one. I figure what i’ve already got on my plate as a diagnosed bipolar/multiple is enough. Long ago i decided that i was just gonna deal with how my brain works, and not get bogged down with labels.
One thing that helped me come to that decision was the mental health care system in my area. I’d only dealt with social workers, therapists, and church counselors until i catapulted into my first full blown mania in my 30s. Then i was in and out of psych wards and a mental hospital, and put under the care of psychologists and psychiatrists, various and sundry. What i experienced wasn’t particularly helpful or pleasant. The diagnoses and medications would change depending on what doc was in charge that day. I’ve been called borderline, schizophrenic, narcissistic, chronically depressed (but no mania), hypochondriacal, even antisocial (the most patently ridiculous of them all).
The other thing that cemented my decision to at least try some less conventional treatments was aaaall the freaking druuuugs, man.* I’ve been summarily yanked off of medications that one should be weaned from. I’ve been placed on meds that have dangerous interactions with other meds i was currently on. I’ve had doctors treat the diagnosis that they gave me, with medications that are clearly meant for another diagnosis. One psychiatrist had me on 6 different medications, 3 of which were only for treating the side effects caused by the other 3.
And he wanted to put me on a seventh.
I went from a psych ward to a mental hospital, only to have the doctor in charge there change my diagnosis (and of course my meds), and treat me with a therapy that is directly contraindicated for how my brain really works. If you’ve been in and out of the system too, you might be like me and now do a lot of reading and research and vetting sources. I’ve had to learn to advocate for myself – i was getting regularly psychically concussed from all the pingponging done by the pros in the field. I was sick and tired and getting crazier rather than better.
I went to my family doctor, and she agreed to help me get off the meds i was on and find someone else to help me. I was using up the shelf life of my organs for no good results. The next drug being pushed on me was one that is notoriously zombifying. Why would i take it if none of the 20 others i’d tried had helped me at all?
I found my current therapist (Ms T) during this period. She specialises in treating multiples. As none of the doctors would touch the DID diagnosis with a 10′ pole (some spent time and energy lecturing me on the terrible mistake it had been to put it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and they hadn’t helped me manage living with Bipolar Disorder… Well, i was desperate, close to a more permanent sort of commitment to a care facility, and she would come to me at my house because i couldn’t leave it.
Kind of a no-brainer.
The DID controversy persists to this day. During the first few years of my work with Ms T, i still had to go to hospital for mental health care frequently. I knew the problems i was dealing with were a direct result of my dissociative issues, but i would only refer to being bipolar. I’d mentioned DID twice, and that’s all it took for me to learn not to bother. I could see their eyes glaze over and feel their emotional distancing.
All this to say, yeah, i’m anxiety-girl. It’s a bigger issue than dissociation right now. I’ve got a piano on my chest, and an elephant is bashing away at the keys with its trunk. Sometimes my heart feels like it’s being squeezed by an invisible hand, and sometimes it skips beats and feels as if it may tear out of my ribs, opening me up like poor old Kane on the Nostradamus. It can beat so fast it seems as if i must surely be having a heart attack. I can hear the blood rushing in my ears. My fingers get numb and tingly. I feel electric needles prickling at my breast, all the way through to the soft flesh near my shoulder blades.
I’m scared for my husband to go to work, and i’m scared for our once a week grocery trips. This Saturday, while i was waiting for him to catch up to me with the cart, i was gripped by an anxiety attack so bad i had to set my items down on the floor in front of at least a dozen people in line. I walked on rubbery legs to go sit on the grass at the far end of the parking lot, to run through my calming techniques for when i’m in the grips of it. He came and sat beside me, and asked What’s wrong?
I hissed at him and asked, What do you think?
Cluing in, he began running through all the reasons why i shouldn’t be worried, why it’ll all be okay. He’s done it before, bless his heart, and he might well do it again. The Copperhead living in my mouth struck before he could get on to statistics and Health Authority admonishments.
“ANXIETY IS NOT RATIONAL!!”
I asked him if he thought i wasn’t intelligent and informed. I asked him if he hadn’t been listening when we conversed on the subject of our current pandemic situation. I asked him if he remembered when i’ve told him that my anxiety doesn’t care about skepticism or experts or the scientific method or statistical data.
(I was snappish, but not verbally abusive, if you follow my blog and were wondering.)
The man knows when to slow his roll, and he did. He became gentle and soft. He smiled, said he was sorry, and asked how he could help. I told him that i don’t always know, but i do know that telling me he’s here and he cares is probably going to be a good place to start.
I bristle if someone starts asking me if i’m doing any of the things they may have heard help cope with anxiety. And don’t try logic, because my anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. Tell me you’re willing to help if i ask, but let me ask. Let me ask for help running through the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Let me ask for help with my yogic breathing. Let me ask for you to hold me or only my hand or place yours in the small of my back. Don’t ask questions – just tell me you’re here, and then be silent and mindful and as calm as you can manage.
I’m not going to write about the thoughts and feelings i was wrestling with, because i know a lot of us are, and i know i don’t need to bring them to mind again. You’ve got your worries and i’ve got mine and we’re all under enough stress. Let’s not poke the bear, eh? It starts bellowing and then that elephant will roll in with its cursed piano.
We both have trunks, but mine isn’t my shnozz. It’s my brain and there are all kinds of toys, treasures, tools, and yes, tricks in there.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else calls those little tricks and trip-ups. This is me and this is how my brain works.
It’s as simple as that.
I’m not going to diagnose anyone else’s brain stuffs.
I’m not going to tell anyone else how it looks when you’ve been given a mental health diagnosis.
But i am going to reiterate, in case anyone else struggling with anxiety and panic in these strange and stressful times can relate:
My anxiety is not rational.
Hang in there as best you can. I’m doing the same. It’s messy AF, but i’m getting the job done.
Love and Peace,
*I’m not antidrug. I’m 100% for taking medications when and where a doctor and their patient make the decision to do so. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a medication suggested by the health care professionals i have on my team now. They know me, they know my lifestyle, what i’m capable of, and what my goals are – and i trust them all.