Insanity

At around the age of puberty, I became a different person. Now, that could be because of my childhood sexual abuse, it could be because of hormones, and largely, I believe it is because that is when my mental health issues began to manifest.

I would like to state for the record that I use the words “mental health issues” for a reason. I am not “mentally ill”. I am not sick. I am insane. Which is to say not sane. Abnormal. Different. I am set apart. This does not make me “ill”. Between the abuse that I suffered and my family history of mental health issues, all the factors came together and dovetailed nicely into who I became, socially, emotionally, and mentally.

When I was twelve, I was diagnosed with ADHD. My school refused to acknowledge my diagnosis for another 3 years, until I was fifteen. When I was a sophmore in high school, I got support for my disability and my academic experiences improved. The support I was given turned out to be equally useful for what would be my later and more definitive diagnosis. Things improved. I went through a period of relative peace with myself, believing that I had the answers.

Years passed. I got my diploma, left high school, did a trade school, and tried to enter the workforce. No, I didn’t go to college, but that’s a whole separate post. I tried to function with no insurance and no ADHD medication. I tried to fly without any supports and somehow expected myself to just take off immediately. I’m told some people can. Well, I was born with a broken wing.

When I finally got to college in my mid-late twenties, I saw the psychiatrist about getting back on medication for my ADHD. Something was fishy to her, so we had a meeting where I brought her just about everything in my history I could find. I brought grade transcripts from high school, writing examples throughout the year, medical records, literally almost two bags of paper. We sat down and poured over things. She asked me a lot of questions, asking about my sleep, my moods, my behavior over time. I explained to her my academic cycle in high school: Start strong first semester, waver second semester, utterly fail third semester, and pull it up into a solid C for the fourth.

Over the next few meetings, she presented me with an alternate theory for my behavior and achievement issues. My psychiatrist believed that I did not have ADHD at all, but rather a minor form of bi-polar syndrome known as Cyclothymia. Essentially, Cyclothymia has all the same notions of mood swings that bi-polar syndrome is famed for, but at a much less severe level, so it goes largely undiagnosed but can become a serious problem.

Since my diagnosis almost two years ago, I’ve been on psychiatric medication, including mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. I’ve seen a serious change. I’m not who I was two years ago, and especially not who I was three or six or ten years ago. I have more control over my moods. My outbursts that were once viewed as behavioral complications from ADHD are now more properly taken care of by my medication. More importantly, I’ve changed my dialogue with myself. Instead of thinking, “I’m distracted and it makes me so mad!” I can think, “I’m having a mood swing. Let’s evaluate if what I’m feeling is rational.”

Am I positive about my diagnosis? No. Not entirely. Hell, I’m not totally sold on some minor psychiatric conditions and their existence when it could just be a matter of having trauma or bad social conditioning. I read Girl, Interrupted and I know (personally) how damaging it can be to buy into believing you’re something that you’re not.

What I do know is that I don’t snap as much as I used to. Be it Cyclothymia or bad attitude, I’m more under control than I once was. I’m still very much a work in progress, but this one winged bird is starting to fly.

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3 Responses to “Insanity”

  1. This is fascinating! I have recently been diagnosed with Cylocthymia. What medications are you on? (If you don’t mind me asking…)

    • I certainly don’t mind. I’ve been on a few since I was diagnosed – Abilify, Zoloft, Lithium, and Ativan (for specific needs). I found the Lithium to be not worth my trouble, since you have to get liver function tests every few months and I have no insurance. Abilify has been reliable and side-effect free for me except for a brief bout with anxiety. Zoloft ran roughshod over my libido, so I went off of it because frankly, I like having a sex life.

      What are you on?

  2. i am bipolar. and as much as i’ve railed against that diagnosis, it does fit.
    but whether or not you buy into the “my diagnosis is me” way of thinking, (and i don’t, for the record), know this:
    mental troubles are one thing – letting them ruin your life is totally different.

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