Today I want to talk about a pretty central issue to mental illness: diagnosis.
We’re all aware how difficult it is to get an accurate diagnosis for any health issue. There’s the back and forth to the doctors to be prodded and poked every which way and the incredibly trying wait times for appointments and test results. I’m a few months into my diagnosis process and I feel like I’m some freak of nature because no one has a clue what’s going on with me.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to go through the diagnosis process. My rap sheet for mental health is more impressive than my CV.
At 14 I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, for which I was given 3 1-hour long sessions with a child psychologist before I was termed “fixed”. I still suffer from body dysmorphia and the last time I made myself sick was 2 years ago. At 16 I was diagnosed Clinically Depressed without being offered any treatment options. At 19 I was diagnosed with Severe Anxiety Disorder for which I received 6 weeks of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy over the phone. We hadn’t finished with the therapy, but my number of sessions had “ran out”. And now, at 21, I have been offered a grand total of 4 different preliminary diagnoses from various doctors: Mood Disorder, Cyclothymia, Depression with Psychotic Episodes and Bipolar 2.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that I’m incredibly lucky to have been seen by four different health teams for free. I also know that passing the life sentence of a mood disorder is very serious and needs to be handled with caution. Part of the problem, of course, is that different doctors have seen me in different mood states. But I can’t help but think that four teams down and four months after I first reached out for help, shouldn’t someone have an answer?
It makes me angry that I’ve had to tell my life story over and over again. It pains me to talk about my hallucinations, suicide attempt and delusional thinking in the uncomfortable presence of health care professionals. I feel unable to communicate effectively what’s happening in my own head and I don’t believe that anyone I’m seeing has my best interests at heart. Every appointment feels like an exhausting battle where I’m constantly trying to be shoved into some kind of box that will offer an easy explanation. I am completely out of control and I don’t trust my doctors with my diagnosis.
I think this experience shows just how much we don’t yet know about mental illness. It shows why this conversation is relevant and why more people need to speak up about their experiences. For me, knowledge is power. The more I know about what I’m fighting against, the better I can tackle it. And that has to start with an accurate diagnosis.