Well, it’s official, folks! I’m a card-carrying member of the bipolar disorder club!
(I should warn you that this will be one of my longest posts ever.)
This morning, I had the evaluation appointment with the psychiatrist. I was a little skeptical, since all it involved was asking me questions. I thought, well, why can’t I just be given a questionnaire, fill it out, and give it back? But now I see that the interaction between the pdoc and me had elements that a written questionnaire wouldn’t have. It probably helped that I was in a good mood for some reason. I found myself rattling out personal details as casually as you can please, as if they were of no import. I spent a lot of time hemming and hawing, though. She would ask something, and I’d be like, “Well, what do you consider x?” then explain whatever about myself had come to mind.
I questioned her bipolar diagnosis. But mine doesn’t seem like the cases I’ve read about, I mentioned. Even reading the blogs of you people who’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I feel it doesn’t sound quite like me, only sort of. She agreed and said mine wasn’t a typical case. My highs aren’t nearly as high as most people’s.
Great. So from what I can gather, the few times in my life I’ve felt content were due to hypomania. Because, my normal state is a low-grade depression.
And what I thought were just interesting, inspirational moments . . . probably hypomania. Occasionally I’ll have this feeling that everything is more vivid, more real, than usual. I hear and look at things and feel how artistic the world is. I might even start artistic projects. Was all of this because of hypomania? I didn’t talk about this stuff with the pdoc, but upon reflection, after a few hours, it strikes my mind.
Perhaps I’m even in a hypomanic state right now. That could account for my uncharacteristic levity. I had difficulty sleeping last night. I felt like I was about to fall asleep, so I went to bed, but then all of a sudden my thoughts were racing, and I woke up every couple of hours. I wondered if I forgot to take my Seroquel. I distinctly remember taking it, but I could be wrong. Sometimes I find my days bleeding together.
So we’re trying out Lamictal. A mood stabilizer. I can’t even comprehend how that would make me feel. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a stable mood that didn’t even being melancholy.
But there’s more. There’s (probably, I think she said, but I might’ve added that in myself since I was in disbelief), post-traumatic stress disorder due to my childhood.
I was inclined to burst out laughing at this, but of course I didn’t. What?! I exclaimed. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. For some of her questions had involved asking about my childhood, and I’d answered truthfully, somehow, instead of holding back as I instinctively wanted to do.
But maybe it was worse than you think it was, she replied. Yes, I’ve heard that before, and my first therapist told me that I was probably emotionally abused. My immediate reaction then was incredulity. It just sounded ridiculous.
But it’s not like anything that bad happened to me. I wasn’t sexually abused. It wasn’t like I was regularly beaten up. Sure, my mom slapped me once in a while, and there was “the stick,” but those weren’t everyday occurrences. What about the old days when people used switches on their children? The stick probably sounds worse than it was. I gave her more details about the stick than I’ve ever mentioned here, and I’m not going to mention them, either, because it would give a negatively distorted image of my childhood.
This is all that happened in my childhood: I had no friends. My parents would yell at me a lot, hurt my feelings, and say I was too sensitive. They would yell at each other a lot. Maybe they occasionally hit each other, but that wasn’t the overriding theme. I felt like they never took me seriously, but why would an adult take an elementary schooler seriously? They didn’t encourage my interests, but it’s not like they actively discouraged them, either.
And yet, based on some things I said, I can see why the pdoc might think that. Here’s how some of my experience seems to match the criteria:
(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event. I mentioned that I’m often afraid to go to sleep because I have nightmares. I described a couple of the nightmares, and none of them had to do with my childhood. I don’t even know if I ever dream about that. I just know that I become afraid of my dreams and sometimes wake up frightened without knowing why.
(3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). If I think about my childhood for too long, I start to feel like the abject, scared, hurt little girl I was when I was a kid.
(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event. Based on the evaluation, this is the one that stuck out to me, and I mention some things related to it in the Day of Truth post I linked to above when I mentioned the stick. Any time there’s yelling or intense conflict going on around me, I start quailing. Occasionally it can even make me cry. (I didn’t mention that part.) If two parties want me to mediate between them, I refuse to do so. I just can’t.
And here’s more that occurred to me later: Maybe this is why I’m so afraid to approach people. Not just the social anxiety, but there’s more. I’m always afraid that any time I approach someone, make my presence known, I’m bothering them. I always felt like anytime I brought a concern up to my parents, I was bothering them. It could even be why I’m so afraid of being wrong, of expressing an erroneous view. I feel like when I was wrong, it was always used against me. And that’s what I fear now–if I make a mistake, it will be used against me.
(1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma. I avoid places where it seems even mild disagreement is going on.
I avoid thinking about my childhood as often as I can. It’s like I put up a wall and refuse to let my mind go there.
(3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma. I’m not unable to recall it. I remember much of it vividly. But reading this part makes me realize something. When I think about my childhood, sometimes it just seems so unreal. Like it didn’t really happen, like the person it happened to can’t have been me.
(5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others. I feel close yet distant with people such as my family members. My therapist once told me it seems I have attachment issues.
(7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span). Yes, definitely. And I don’t even ever want children. I’m not good with kids, and I’m afraid besides that I’ll be a crappy parent. Because it’s not as if my parents were the world’s best, and I don’t have another model.
D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
(1) difficulty falling or staying asleep
(2) irritability or outbursts of anger
(3) difficulty concentrating
(5) exaggerated startle response
Hmm. Okay. Sometimes it’s hard for me to fall asleep. I’m often irritable, and I can have violently angry outbursts. I find it hard to concentrate sometimes. I can either focus entirely on something or not at all. I think I’m hypervigilant. And I definitely have an exaggerated startle response.
So could I have PTSD? It just somehow doesn’t compute to me, as if it’s the most impossible thing ever. I mean, compare what I went through to what most people with PTSD went through . . . it’s a trifle.
Why would my childhood induce PTSD? Most of what I remember is yelling and hurt feelings. Is that enough to cause PTSD? Probably not. And I’m sure my memory is selective . . . it can’t have been as bad as the emotions I remember. That’s what I mostly remember, certain emotions.
Still, compared to other possible traumas out there, it seems rather mild. Does it mean I’m a weak person? I remember my parents used to tell me to toughen up, that every little thing shouldn’t make me cry.
If my childhood gave me PTSD, I must be weak. How would I have responded to real trauma if that’s true? I probably wouldn’t be resilient enough to survive. Ergo, I’m weak.
I should probably tell my parents about my diagnoses. And yet. I’m debating whether I should mention the PTSD possibility to them. They’ll probably laugh if I do. And they’d have a right to. They’ve had much worse things happen in their lives than I have.
But if I just mention the bipolar disorder, I know what my dad will say. I told you so. It was in your genes. It has nothing to do with the past. My dad once said, If it was really so bad, why didn’t any of my other kids turn out that way? After the ER episode, he even asked me if anything “bad” had happened to me that he didn’t know about. He thinks my childhood of hurt feelings isn’t enough to affect me the way I say it does.
What I can’t stand is my dad feeling smug, like yes, he was right, and I was wrong. None of it is his fault; it’s all biology. I want him to know that he’s not blameless. I want him to understand my point of view and feel guilty. I’m resentful. That’s rude and spiteful of me, I know.
But at the same time, I don’t want him to think it was all his fault, just some of it. I don’t want him to be incapacitated by guilt.
I know I’ve only mentioned my dad here, but my mom is equally to blame. But she’s different. I don’t think I can tell her that. She just doesn’t seem able to comprehend points of view that aren’t her own. I guess I feel like she needs to be sheltered, but I don’t want her to feel like she’s guiltless, either.
If my parents believed I had PTSD, they would both probably blame it on the other parent. I don’t want that. I want them to understand that neither of them were the world’s most perfect parents.
I don’t know what I’m going to do or what I believe right now. I just want to curl up into a ball. I wish that I could have even one of my blogging friends here right now. But I know I’m doomed to always be alone, and that cuts my heart.