How a Misdiagnosis Almost Made Me Lose Everything
I’ve been absent. I’ve been trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
Last spring, I entered treatment for the first time since 2006, with a new team of therapist and psychiatrist. I was thoroughly honest with both about my previous bipolar disorder diagnosis 16 years ago; both disagreed, and told me they believed it to be adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
So, I took the little blue pills three times per day and felt on top of the world. Finally able to handle all that was on my plate; extending my arms to gather more tasks and responsibilities, feeling as if I could fix the world with just a little more time.
Then came the increase to the little orange pills three times per day, and all those tasks and responsibilities started falling down like dominoes. I didn’t care. I couldn’t focus. The world was spinning too fast.
I began to have rages which were so out of character. I went to this team, and let them know of them; asking for help to fix the rage that was burning so hot within me. I was given more orange pills and told it was a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) making me rage. I reported that’s not the case, to which I was ignored until my next appointment in 30 days.
I discontinued the pills myself in August, wishing to just stop raging. The joy was still there, but so forced at times. Rage burned so hotly I was scared I was burning people with my touch. I started to see myself back in the halls of the psych ward, where I spent too much time when I was 22.
Still, I returned to the treatment team, thinking we could get past this. I mentioned I may need inpatient. My psychiatrist scoffed at me; telling me I didn’t, I just needed my medication. I took his advice again, thinking maybe this was it; perhaps I just needed an extended version of the med with no peaks and valleys.
Meanwhile, the husband — who has been my rock — was burned time and time again by my rages. Hurt by my words, my broken devices, my careless leasing of a car, mismanagement of our bank account. The bills piled up, the shiny new clothes with tags still on them hanging on the hangers in the closet, the fridge bare.
My parents thought it was my husband driving this “madness” within me. My 5-year-old son called me an “angry mom,” with fear in his eyes, and then hastily apologized for using those words towards me. I told him to never apologize. His words became the driving force in me seeking care with a new team.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, I knew a storm was brewing. I had been spending days home alone, going down memory lane with an unlimited music library… and that Monday? I was fighting a battle in my mind. I wanted nothing more than to decorate the walls of our bedroom with Sharpie’d lyrics. It made so much sense to me to do this one thing…. but I had enough sense not to.
I reached out. My husband and mother at this point realized the level of splitting I’d been experiencing; dividing them versus us. (Well, him). See, my husband has been around since I was 15, and witnessed so many of these crises. So that Monday? I landed in a car on my way to the emergency room, with the hopes of inpatient once and for all to straighten out my mind. I did not care what their solution was; I was on my knees.
Six hours into the admission to the ER, and a strong dose of medication later, I stood up and became my rageful self to the nurses’ station. No food, no service, I’d be better off at home. I was met with “you can’t leave, you’ve been sectioned.” To which I responded: “watch me.”
My husband sat through and witnessed all of this and the ensuing chase through the parking lot by the security. After a brief talk, I returned. And received better service.
A three-day stay at a crisis center helped somewhat stabilize me. Having a team I met with each morning to discuss medications, better life choices and how toxic isolation was for my soul helped to set me on the right path.
Upon discharge, I returned home with a “now what?” feeling. I had no treatment team lined up, no day program, no partial hospitalization program. This was the longest week of my life. I spent all week being babysat and having these belligerent fits towards my husband. It was not working like it should have been. I needed more and more help.
My nurse practitioner met me with my mother in tow, and witnessed me go from hysterical tears to hysterical laughter in one minute; partial was ordered.
This partial? Changed my life. Not only was I able to pick up the tools to live my life a bit healthier, but I also found a new treatment team. The therapist was totally different than all the previous: he’s a he, extroverted and calls me on my stuff like no one before. We practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); no one has ever worked on this model of therapy with me. The psychiatrist is a nurse practitioner and spends the time necessary with me to sort treatment out. I feel as if I’m an active member of the team, not just some guinea pig they can load up with as many meds as possible till I drool.
My husband and I are a work in progress. He does all he can for me. And I don’t know how to ask for help always, but I’m learning. I am trying so hard to get outside of myself, outside my self-centeredness to focus on us, and him.
The diagnosis which has now returned to the top of my chart is bipolar disorder. I worked hard to get that one off, as I had been 13 years symptom-free. Figured it wasn’t a true diagnosis for me, and had done the work to prove it so. Who knew a little blue or little orange pill would put it back on my chart? Who knew those little pills would make it so I lost almost everything important to me: my career, my car, almost lost my family, and worst of all? My life. I am so blessed I had family willing and able to step in and pick me back up; delivering me to the ER, daily delivery and pick up at the partial, and just put up with my “madness.” I love these people, my village.
How does my “madness” manifest? I’m just too much. Too loud, too passionate, too emotional, too shiny, too empathetic, too much of all of it. I’m praying this new treatment team, along with the support and love of my family, helps me get back to equilibrium. Level ground, where I can be a mom, wife, and hopefully someday an employee again. A contributing member of society instead of where I’m at… wanting a new tattoo weekly, dying my hair, dressing like a teenager.
Why am I writing this today? One of my favorite artists from my teenage years, Dolores O’Riordan’s death really sent me for a spin. She was always so passionate, so talented, so musically what I wished I could be as a writer… and she was bipolar, too. It hurts, saddens me to see such a beautiful soul snuffed out so early. So I’m fighting the fight, to not end up in a similar situation. To experience the beauty of this world, and never forget the love which surrounds me.
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
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